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What Do Appellate Courts Consider When Reviewing a Case?


If you are convicted of a crime in the United States, you can file an appeal to a higher court, asking it to review the lower court’s decision. If your appeal is successful, your conviction may be overturned, or the court may send your case back to the lower court for additional findings. On the other hand, if your appeal is unsuccessful, the lower court’s decision stands. Successfully appealing a criminal case can be challenging. One of the main steps to ensuring your appeal is successful is understanding what appellate courts look for when reviewing a criminal case. Below, we look at what appellate courts consider when reviewing a criminal case and some of the grounds for appealing a criminal conviction.

What Do Appellate Courts Consider When Reviewing a Criminal Case?

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), a criminal appeal is not a retrial or new trial. This means appellate court judges do not consider new evidence or new witnesses. According to the ABA, the two main things appellate court judges consider are trial procedures and the lower court judge’s application of the law.

When it comes to trial procedures, appellate courts consider the trial court’s ruling on issues such as the admissibility of evidence and the conduct of attorneys. If the appellate court finds that the trial procedure was unfair, it may reverse the trial court’s decision.

The appellate court considers if the trial court applied the law in the case correctly. This assessment entails examining how the trial court interpreted relevant statutes, constitutional provisions, and case law. The appellate court may also examine the reasoning behind the trial court’s decision. If there was an issue with the application of the law, the appellate court may reverse the trial court’s decision.

Grounds for Appealing a Criminal Conviction

You cannot appeal a criminal conviction because you disagree with the decision. You must have specific reasons for appealing your conviction. The following are some of the common grounds for appealing a criminal conviction;

  • Ineffective assistance of counsel: If you can prove that your defense attorney was incompetent or that your attorney provided you inadequate representation, you may have the right to appeal your conviction on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel.
  • Insufficient evidence: If you can prove that the jury convicted you even though there wasn’t compelling evidence to support the decision, you may have the right to appeal your conviction on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Appealing your case on these grounds entails arguing that the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, but the jury still convicted you.
  • Prosecutorial misconduct: If the prosecuting attorney acted illegally or unethically, thus resulting in an unfair trial, that could be viable grounds for appeal.
  • Jury misconduct: If jury members behaved unlawfully or inappropriately, thus compromising your right to a fair trial, you may have grounds for appealing your conviction.
  • Newly found evidence: If new evidence that is likely to change the outcome of your case is discovered, that may be grounds for a new trial. However, the appellate court will not weigh in on the new evidence. Instead, the court will determine if the evidence justifies a new trial.

Contact an NYC Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are considering appealing your criminal conviction and need legal guidance, contact our skilled NYC criminal attorney, Mark I. Cohen, at 212-732-0002.



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