While depictions in movies, books, and television shows have given many people some degree of understanding about the trial court process, the procedures relating to criminal appeals are much different. Appellate law is extremely complex and involves very sensitive deadlines that need to be met in order for successful outcomes.
Anybody who has been convicted of a criminal offense in Florida has the right to appeal the decision of the criminal court unless that right was waived as part of a plea deal. People are not required to retain the same lawyers that handled their criminal trials, and it is usually in an alleged offender’s best interest to make sure that they hire an attorney who understands all of the intricacies of appellate law.
If you or your loved one has been convicted of any kind of crime in Florida, you should know that you could still have legal options. Terrezza Law can help you explore your possible avenues for filing an appeal.
John Terrezza is a Pensacola criminal defense attorney who handles appeals for clients in such communities as Milton, Navarre, Pensacola Beach, and Gulf Breeze. He will provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case so you can understand all of your legal options as soon as you call (850) 764-5291 to schedule a free consultation.
The first step in the appellate process if for the appellant (the party disagreeing with the lower court judgment) to file a notice of appeal with the clerk of the trial court in which the alleged offender was convicted. Appellants must file their notices of appeal within 30 days of the rendition of an order (the filing of a signed, written order with the clerk) in a state case or risk losing their right to appeal.
In limited circumstances, an alleged offender may file a petition seeking belated appeal after the 30-day notice of appeal deadline has expired. Belated appeals are generally limited to unique scenarios such as the discovery of new evidence or a previous lawyer’s failure to file a notice to appeal within 30 days.
In federal criminal courts, alleged offenders have 14 days to file notices of appeal. Timelines can be further complicated depending on if written motions for judgment of acquittal or new trial had been filed and when the court ruled on them.
Shortly after filing a notice of appeal, an appellant must give the clerk of the trial court instructions as to what specific documents should be included in the record—the official account of what occurred at the hearing or trial being appealed. The instructions must be delivered within 10 days of the filing of the notice of appeal in most state court appeals and 14 days in most federal court appeals.
Under the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, records consist of the following (unless otherwise directed by the parties):
Unless ordered by the court, a clerk will not include physical evidence in the record. If they are capable, clerks will transmit copies of electronically recorded evidence.
Many appeals are decided based on the briefs filed by the two parties involved. Appellate briefs in state court appeal generally include:
The time limits and names of the briefs are different in federal appeals, although the contents are largely similar:
Oral arguments are optional but they are allowed in all appeal proceedings. While they are almost always requested, they are not always granted. Oral arguments need to be requested by one of the parties within 10 days of the final brief being served in state appeals.
In an oral argument, each side is allowed 20 minutes (except for capital cases, in which each side gets 30 minutes) for state appeals. The federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals limits oral arguments to 15 minutes per side. Oral arguments are typically heard by a panel of appellate judges.
After the appeal court has received the record, reviewed all briefs, and heard oral arguments, the judges will conference to arrive at a decision. The amount of time it takes to arrive at a decision depends on the complexity of the case and the current workload of the court, but appellate decisions in criminal cases generally come within a few months from the last filing or the oral arguments.
If the appellate court agrees with the trial court, then it affirms the decision of the lower court—possibly per curiam affirmed (PCA), meaning the trial court’s decision is affirmed without explanation. If, however, the appellate court disagrees with how the trial court handled a case, it will reverse the decision and issue a mandate directing the trial court to perform a specified action—which may be anything from holding a hearing on a legal issue to releasing an offender from custody.
When appeals are unsuccessful, appellants may still have additional options. An appellant may be able to file a motion for rehearing, a petition for rehearing en banc (an appeal heard by all of the appellate judges instead of a panel of three), or a motion for clarification.
The standards that need to be satisfied for additional appeal motions are exceedingly high. Appellants typically must identify issues such as decisions conflicting with another opinion of the appeals court concerning the same legal issue.
Appeals | Clerk of the Court — Appeals of criminal cases in Pensacola are filed with the Escambia County Clerk’s office. You can download forms relating to the appeals process on this website. You can also find links to various local and state resources, including statutes, ordinances, and courts.
Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller
190 West Government Street
Pensacola, FL 32502
Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure — The Rules of Appellate Procedure govern all appellate proceedings in the state of Florida. You can view the full text of the document and read specific rules relating to briefs, motions, and jurisdiction of courts. The Rules of Appellate Procedure establish the pleadings and documents that need to be filed as well as the deadlines for when each needs to be filed.
Were you or your loved one recently convicted in a Florida trial court? You may be able to file a criminal appeal of that decision or seek some other kind of post-conviction relief.
Pensacola criminal defense attorney John Terrezza of Terrezza Law pursues justice for clients in communities throughout Escambia County, Okaloosa County, Walton County, and Santa Rosa County. Call (850) 764-5291 or submit an online contact form right now to take advantage of a free, confidential consultation that will let our lawyer review your case.