what an anders brief means for your caseIf you are convicted of a serious crime in Florida, you will be given a lengthy prison sentence and have a permanent criminal record. However, you may have grounds to file an appeal of your conviction

It is best to retain an experienced criminal appeals lawyer to file your appeal. Your lawyer can ensure that your appeal is filed within the time period allowed under Florida law and that all the meritorious issues that would be grounds for an appeal are raised in your brief.  However, if your attorney agrees to represent you and later determines that there are insufficient grounds to appeal your conviction, he may file an Anders brief. 

What Is an Anders Brief? 

An Anders brief is a legal document filed by a criminal defense attorney representing a defendant in his appeal of a criminal conviction if he believes that the appeal would be frivolous. In the brief, he would notify the court that he does not believe there are grounds to file an appeal and ask the court to allow him to withdraw as the defendant’s lawyer. This brief is named after a United States Supreme Court Case, Anders v. California 386 U.S. 738 (1967).

In Florida, an appellate attorney has a duty to support his client’s appeal to the best of his ability. This includes studying the trial court record carefully to determine what, if any, issues should be appealed. However, lawyers in our state also have an ethical duty not to file frivolous documents in court. A legal document or brief would be considered frivolous if it had no serious meaning or merit.

In some cases, a lawyer will discover that there are no non-frivolous issues to appeal when examining the trial court record. In this situation, he would file an Anders brief. He is required to file the document with the court and send it to the defendant. In the brief, the attorney must provide this information:

  • He must explain why he believes that there are no legitimate grounds to reverse the conviction, sentence, or order that is being appealed.
  • He must state all the facts in the record and law that could arguably support an appeal, even if they do not rise to the level of being grounds for reversal of the conviction, sentence, or order that was appealed.
  • He must ask that the defendant be permitted to file a brief on his own.

Depending on the court, the lawyer may file a separate motion to withdraw as the defendant’s attorney. This pleading would also need to be filed with the court and sent to the defendant. 

What Should You Do if You Receive an Anders Brief?

If an Anders brief is filed in your case, the court will issue an order giving you the right to file your own brief. This is called a pro se brief. Defendants are generally given 30 days to file it. Once the order is entered, your attorney will send you the trial record on appeal. 

Your goal in writing a pro se brief is to show that your lawyer is wrong and that a reversible error occurred in your criminal case. Here is what you will need to do when filing your own brief:

  • Use the prison library and law clerk. In Florida, prisons are required to provide legal libraries and inmate law clerks who have received training to assist inmates in writing pro se briefs. You should research the issues in your case at the law library and obtain whatever help the law clerk can give you. Keep in mind that he cannot represent you or give you legal advice.
  • Review the court record. You will need to review the entire court record, including any legal documents filed in your case and transcripts of your trial and any hearings. You should take notes when reading the record and should note relevant page numbers that you may want to refer to when writing your brief.
  • Decide on your issues. You should identify the issues that you believe are reversible errors. You can only raise new issues not preserved for appeal by your lawyer in limited circumstances, so it is best to focus on the issues he has already raised.
  • Write your brief. Once you research the laws and court decisions that affect your appeal, you should outline your arguments and write your brief. It is important that you follow the requirements of Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.210 in drafting it. You should be able to find information on the format for your brief, procedures you must follow, and how to write your brief in the inmate library.

Once all the briefs have been filed in your case, a three-judge appellate panel will be assigned to decide your appeal. They will review the briefs and trial record before making a decision on your appeal. They will write a written opinion that will be sent to you.

Let the Law Offices of Robert David Malove Help You File Your Criminal Appeal

Are you considering filing an appeal of your criminal conviction? Our experienced South Florida criminal defense lawyers are here to help. Take advantage of our free consultation to discuss your case and learn how we can assist you. We also offer a payment plan to make our services more affordable for you. Call our Fort Lauderdale office to schedule your appointment today.

Robert Malove
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South Florida Criminal Defense Attorney