Before you appeal a trial court’s decision, it is essential to know what the steps are in a Florida criminal appeal so that you know what to expect as your case proceeds.
Below, we will outline the steps in a Florida criminal appeal. However, we encourage you to contact an appellate attorney as soon as possible to discuss your appeal. You have a very limited amount of time to take action, and if you miss a deadline, you could lose your right to appeal.
Steps in a Florida Criminal Appeal
Notice of Appeal
The first step in appealing a Florida Circuit Court decision is to file a Notice of Appeal with the District Court of Appeals. In most cases, you have just 30 days from the date of the trial court’s final judgment to file a Notice of Appeal and to pay the applicable filing fees.
Preparation of the Record
It is the trial court clerk’s responsibility to prepare the trial court record for the court of appeals. Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure indicate which documents must be sent to the appeals court; however, it is your responsibility to make sure that the record contains everything you want it to include. Typically, you have just ten days after you file your Notice of Appeal to provide the clerk of the trial court with your instructions on how to prepare the record for the District Court of Appeals.
Legal briefs are written arguments submitted to the court. Typically, the briefing process includes the following:
- Initial Brief. This is your chance to explain to the court why the trial court was wrong by making legal arguments supported by the trial record.
- Answer Brief. This is the other party’s response to your initial brief. The appellee, or the party who prevailed in the lower court, will defend the trial court’s decision and provide legal reasons why the trial court’s decision should stand.
- Reply Brief. Once the other party has answered your initial brief, you will have the opportunity to reply to its Answer Brief with a Reply Brief that rebuts the arguments the other party raised in its Answer Brief.
The Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure provide precise style guidelines that must be followed when submitting these briefs to the court.
If you want to present oral arguments to the Court of Appeals, you must request oral arguments in a separate document within ten days of when the last brief was served. The court may grant or refuse your request for oral arguments. If the court grants your request for oral arguments, then you will typically present your oral arguments to a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals. Your oral argument time will be limited, and you will be notified of how much time you have to make your oral arguments before your court date.
The Appeals Court Decision
You will be notified of the Court of Appeals’ decision in writing. The Court may issue a formal opinion with its decision or simply notify you of its decision. If further action is required of the trial court, that action will be described in the Appeals Court decision.
Petitions for Review
In limited circumstances, you may have further opportunities for appeal after the decision of a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals. For example, you may petition the Court of Appeals to hear your case en banc (with all the court’s judges in regular active service hearing your appeal), or you may petition the Florida Supreme Court to hear your case.
Get Help Each Step of the Way in a Florida Appeal
Successful appeals require that very specific rules be followed at each step of the appeals process. You have too much at stake to handle this on your own. Instead, we encourage you to contact Florida appellate attorney Robert Malove to learn more. Remember, you have a very limited amount of time to appeal the trial court’s decision, so it is important to contact Mr. Malove as soon as possible.