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Virginia Criminal Appeals Process

The duration of a Virginia appeal really depends on the case. It can be as short as a few months. There’s a 30-day deadline to petition for appeal from a Circuit Court judgment to the Virginia Court of Appeals. In criminal cases, there is no right to an appeal from the Circuit Court, and the majority of the petitions to the Virginia Court of Appeals are rejected. Therefore, a lot of appeals are completed within that short period of time.

However, whether an appeal will be taken depends mostly on its merits, as presented to the appellate court by the appellate attorney in written form. Obviously, if there is a stronger argument for the appeal, it is more likely to be taken. If it is, it will take more time.

In some cases, such as death penalty cases and class action lawsuits, the appellate process can continue for decades, but most criminal appeals in Virginia are completed within one year. To learn more comprehensive information about the duration and process of a criminal appeal case, contact a Virginia appeals lawyer today.

What Courts Decide Appeals

In Virginia, it depends on what the type of case is and what the jurisdiction for that case is. Certain misdemeanor cases – these are cases that are subject to less than 1 year in jail- or traffic infractions, as a matter of efficiency, are tried in the General District Court (GDC), where defendants are not entitled to a jury and they are not entitled to a record.

Because these are essential protections that are guaranteed to criminal defendants, if a defendant is convicted in the General District Court, they can then appeal the case as a matter of right to the Circuit Court, which will hear the case fresh from the beginning as if nothing had happened in the GDC. These are what are called “de novo” appeals.

The Virginia Court of Appeals is also an appellate court. It was created in the 1980s. It hears appeals of criminal cases from the Circuit Courts, and it also is the court of last resort – the last court to hear matters – involving family law, appeals of administrative decisions, and worker’s compensation appeals. It can also hear appeals related to granting or denial of bail by the trial court.

Above the Virginia Court of Appeals is the Virginia Supreme Court. It can hear appeals of decisions by the Court of Appeals in criminal cases if the defendant is subject to incarceration. If the defendant is not facing incarceration, then the Court of Appeals’ decision is final unless it contains an issue of significant precedence or of constitutionality. Also, sometimes defendants can be charged in federal courts for various crimes.

If a federal court convicts a defendant or makes a ruling that’s not in their favor, those rulings could be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. They’re seated in Richmond and hear appeals of federal cases in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

What Issues May Be Appealed

Pretty much any issue can be appealed as long as it is preserved. This means that the attorney at trial has a burden, when there is a mistake made or when there is a ruling that that attorney doesn’t agree with, to object to that ruling at the time that it’s made. For efficiency purposes, the courts are not going to hear appeals related to rulings that were not objected to at the time they were made, unless some very specific exceptions apply, such as those found in contemporaneous objection rule.

As long as an issue is preserved by objection of the trial attorney, then it is appealable and the only determination to be made is whether such an appeal is likely to be successful and whether it is worth pursuing. If a trial lawyer has made a successful objection, then it is up to the client to decide whether they want to pursue their appeal and hire a Virginia appeals lawyer for aid.

Possible Outcomes of Appeals

Unfortunately, the most common outcome is either that the petition for appeal will be denied or that, if it’s granted, the appeal itself will be denied. This happens in a majority of cases that are appealed, especially in the criminal context. It is important that the client knows that, unless there is a very strong argument, an appeal is typically going to be an uphill process.

However, if there is a meritorious argument, there’s also a good chance that the case could be overturned and remanded for further proceedings in the trial court. This means that if there was a mistake that was made by the trial court, such as admitting evidence that shouldn’t have been admitted or giving improper instruction to the jury, the Virginia appellate court would issue an opinion that says, “No, this jury instruction that was given was not right.

The jury instruction that should have been given was…” and they’ll write that out and they will send it back to the trial court to have the trial again, with the jury given the new instruction. In very rare cases, usually cases involving appeals where the appellant argues that the facts do not the support the conviction, the outcome of the case can be completely reversed and the opposite judgment entered.

For example, if the defendant was convicted, the appellate court could enter a judgment of acquittal, but this is not a common occurrence. This would only occur in very specific circumstances. It’s much more likely that if an appeal is successful, it will result in remanding the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

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