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An appeal is a direct attack on a conviction filed with another court that has jurisdiction over the case.

Depending on the jurisdiction and court, a defendant who has been convicted may have either an automatic right to appeal, or a discretionary right to appeal. For instance, in the United States all criminal defendants have an automatic right to appeal from a conviction at trial. Appeals to State Supreme Courts and the United States Supreme Court are discretionary.

Limits on the Right to Appeal

  • Timeliness - In most jurisdictions a defendant has a specific period of time in which he must file for an appeal. Failure to file in the statutory limit an be deemed a waiver of the right to appeal.
  • Waiver - The defendant may agree in writing to waive their right to appeal.
  • Presevation - A defendant who disagrees with a judge's ruling should strive to make a timely and specific objection to the ruling in order to preserve the issue for appeal. Failure to do so may be deemed a waiver of the error by the appeals judge. The rationale behind this rule is that a defendant is obligated to cure error as soon as it occurs to increase both the speed and accuracy of case outcomes. Furthermore, a defendant who strategically decides to forgo raising an error at trial should not be able to raise that same error at a later date.
  • Harmless Error - In those cases where an error is preserved, the court may determine that the error is harmless and would not have affected the outcome of the case. Generally, there are two types of errors: those that are subject to harmless error analysis and those that, once proven, automatically result in reversal or modification of the conviction.

Collateral Attacks on Appeal

  • Habeas Corpus
  • Judgement Notwithstanding the Verdict

Results of Appeal

  • Remand for a new trial
  • Reversal of conviction
  • Modification of sentence