Criminal Appeal

After a court has convicted and sentenced a criminal defendant, the defendant may file criminal appeal to a higher court, asking it to review the lower court’s decision for legal errors that may have affected the outcome of the case. If the appellate court grants the appeal, it may reverse the lower court’s decision in whole or in part. If the appellate court denies the appeal, the lower court’s decision stands. A few factors an appellate court considers when making this decision are:

  • The Right to Appeal – A guilty plea by a defendant automatically triggers a right to an appeal, but a natural question by a court of appeal is usually, “Why did you plead guilty to the crime if you didn’t do it.” Therefore without some legal grounds they are usually unsuccessful. A guilty verdict by a jury is a different matter. Guilty verdicts by juries are based on the facts of the case and are usually given more deference by a court of appeals and thus harder to appeal without new evidence.

The prosecution usually cannot appeal a not guilty verdict because this would violate the defendant’s constitutional right against double jeopardy  However, in the unlikely event that a judge sets aside a jury’s guilty verdict, the judge’s not guilty verdict may be appealable.

  • Process of an Appellate (Post Conviction) Review – An appeal is not a retrial, but a review of the record in the trial court. An appeal is not a retrial of the case. Rather, the appellate court reviews the record of the lower court’s proceedings to determine whether there are adequate grounds to grant the appeal. The record includes all pre-trial and post-trial motions, all evidence admitted to the court and a word-for-word transcript of the trial. In addition to analyzing the record, appellate courts also review written briefs submitted by each party. Appellate briefs frame the legal issues raised on appeal and set forth persuasive legal arguments to support their position. The court may also hear oral argument from counsel in order to clarify any points raised in the written briefs.


  • Grounds for Appeal – Even though defendants have a right to an appeal, there has to be some reason, or legally valid grounds, for an appeal to be successful. Potential grounds for appeal in a criminal case include legal error, juror misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel. Legal errors may result from improperly admitted evidence, incorrect jury instructions, or lack of sufficient evidence to support a guilty verdict. To grant the appeal, the appellate court must find that these errors affected the outcome of the case. If the errors would not have changed the verdict, they are considered harmless, and the conviction will stand.


  • Common Bases for Appeal:
    • Legal Error
    • Juror Misconduct
    • Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

A conviction may also be appealed if the defendant reasonably believes that the jury conducted itself improperly during deliberations or the trial itself. Jury misconduct includes  the use of experiments, drug or alcohol abuse during deliberations or trial, and improper communications between jurors and witnesses or counsel.

Finally, criminal defendants often appeal their cases when they feel that they were not provided with adequate representation. To succeed in an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a defendants must typically prove that but for their counsel’s actions, the outcome of the case would have been different.


A few common questions defendants ask when considering an appeal are:

What happens if I’m found guilty?

If you are found guilty, the judge will decide your sentence. The prosecutor and defense lawyer can make recommendations to the judge about what kind of punishment you should get. A judge cannot give you a harsher sentence than the prosecutor or defense lawyer recommended. The judge can give you a lighter sentence than the prosecutor or defense lawyer recommends, but cannot give you a harsher one. If you are found guilty of a misdemeanor, the judge could sentence you to a fine and up to one year in jail. If you are found guilty of a felony, the judge could sentence you to a fine and between two years and life in prison. The judge could also give you a combination of these sentences, such as a fine and probation or a fine and community service. Judges are not required to follow the recommendations of the prosecutor or defense lawyer. Judges are free to sentence you to a different punishment than they recommend, or to no punishment at all.


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We Offer Criminal Defense Services In The Following Areas:

– Drug & Medication Crimes

– Sexual Assault Crimes

– Disorderly Crimes

– Theft & Property Crimes

– Physical Assault Crimes

– Probation & Parole Revocations

– Criminal Appeals


* Chippewa Falls and All Locations in Chippewa County, Wisconsin

* Eau Claire and All Locations in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin

* Menomonie and All Locations in Dunn County, Wisconsin

* Rice Lake and All Locations in Barron County, Wisconsin



Criminal Appellate Lawyer