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Understanding the Appeal Process

Understanding the Appeal Process

Jack B. Swerling is a South Carolina criminal defense lawyer who handles both criminal trials and appeals.  If you are found guilty at trial and sentenced, you have the right to appeal.  Both federal and state criminal laws allow you the right to appeal your conviction.  An appeal is an assertion that a mistake was made during the trial and may have influenced the outcome.

Both state and federal criminal appeals are very different from the trial phase.  For instance, no new evidence is admitted in an appeal.  Appeals courts do not hear witnesses and do not have juries.  An appeals court is usually a panel of at least three judges that review the record of the trial, consider written briefs—and sometimes hear oral arguments from attorneys for each side—the court then renders a written decision.

An appeals court can either agree or disagree with the trial court’s decision and accordingly may reverse or affirm the trial court determination.  In South Carolina, an appeal is best handled by a criminal defense lawyer in Columbia who has the skills and experience for such cases.

South Carolina Appeal Process

South Carolina has a three-stage court system for criminal matters.  The trial occurs in the criminal division of the South Carolina Circuit Court, called the Court of General Sessions.  If a person is convicted of a crime that person has the right to file an appeal.  Most cases are appealed to the South Carolina Court of Appeals.  But any case where a death sentence was imposed is appealed directly to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Once a decision of the Court of Appeals becomes final, either party can file an appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court.  Unlike the first appeal, however, there is no guarantee that the court will hear the case.

Under certain circumstances, the case may be appealed in the federal courts or even the U.S. Supreme Court.  The U.S. Supreme Court takes on only a handful of cases every year, so an appeal is rarely granted.

Federal Appeal Process

While the federal appeal process has some differences understood by criminal defense lawyers in Columbia, the process is generally very similar.  Like South Carolina and most states, the federal court system has three levels.  The federal appeal process applies to cases that are in the U.S. District Court, the court where trials occur for federal crimes.  A defendant who is found guilty at trial may appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Federal cases tried in South Carolina are appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  Like state appeal courts, the Court of Appeals reviews the record of the trial, considers written arguments or briefs filed by the attorneys for each side, and in some cases hears oral arguments from each attorney.  The decisions of a U.S. Court of Appeals can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but these appeals are rarely granted.

Contact Jack B. Swerling Today

If a court has ruled against you and you are interested in filing an appeal or if a court has ruled in your favor and the other party has filed an appeal, call our law firm 24 hours a day at 800-701-0599.  Our answering service can direct you to Jack Swerling.  You may also contact Jack Swerling online.

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  • Columbia Office
    1720 Main Street
    Suite 301
    Columbia, South Carolina 29201-2850
    Phone: 800-701-0599
    Fax: 803-799-4059