Appealing Criminal Cases

In Virginia we have the ability to appeal misdemeanor convictions from the General District Court to the Circuit Court. This article does not discuss those procedures. The scope of this article surrounds appealing criminal cases of convictions from Circuit Court or a United States District Court.
If you are convicted of a misdemeanor or felony in circuit court or US District Court, you may appeal your conviction to the Court of Appeals of Virginia (for state convictions) or the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (for federal convictions). I handle appeals at both state and federal levels.

To start an appeal, you have to file a notice of appeal with the clerk of court where the conviction occurred. The deadline is either 30 days for state convictions or 14 days for federal convictions. What is very important is that if you do not file a notice of appeal in that time period, it is highly likely your case will not move forward. Assuming the notice of appeal is filed timely, the article begins here. Many clients contact me to discuss appeals. The most important advice I give clients is that appeals have to be brought on an error that occurred during the trial and that error has to be preserved by objection by the trial attorney or the error has to be so blatant (plain error) any trier of fact would have reasonably not let evidence in. Most appeals come from the denial of pretrial motions to suppress or other motions for relief. Rarely will an appeal result in a overruled objection during the trial. If a trial is going forward and a prosecutor asks a leading question and the defense attorney objects, even if the judge rules the wrong way, it is highly unlikely that one small error would be grounds for a retrial.

However, if a motion to suppress was filed, and it was argued pretrial, such a denial would lead more issues of appellate review.

When a client asks me to appeal, my typical response is that I need to review the court record. This includes the transcripts and written motions filed. It will take me several hours (if not longer) to read every line of paper from the trial transcripts, motions transcripts and motions. I then have to research the law and formulate an opinion if an appeal is viable. In order for me to do this, I will usually require fees of $2500-$5000 depending on the complexity of the case plus the costs of getting the docs. Once I have reviewed the case, if I believe a viable appeal is warranted, I will generally quote fees of $7000-$10,000 to prepare a brief and undergo oral argument at a 3 judge panel. Appeals to to each level after the 3 judge panel can be substanial in fees. Appeals can come to the en banc court of appeals and the Supreme Court. To go through every level can take 2 years, and spend $50k on average. Appeals are not for those with limited resources. A family has to be committed to subtantial fees.  I have obtained reverals and acquittals at the Virginia Court of Appeals, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Virginia Supreme Court. I have argued at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. I have have argued administrative appeals to the National Transportation Safety Board for aviation issues.  I am a member of the US Supreme Court and have filed several briefs with the highest court in the United States.

One of the most famous cases I have is Commonwealth v. Bristol. This presendence of this case is argued daily by defense attorneys in Virginia dealing with arrests and dui issues. I won another case of US v Adams in the Fourth Circuit Court of appeals which also is relevant for those charged with crimes occuring on private roads. 

If you or a loved one is interested in meeting with an appeallatte attorney who wins cases, contact me for a consultation.