Tampa Criminal Appeals Lawyers

The Importance Of Meeting With An Experienced Appellate Attorney

A person who wants to appeal is best protected by meeting with an attorney who knows and works in appellate law. The legal issues under consideration in many criminal appeals are often novel, requiring creative thinking and an ability to articulate persuasive new arguments. An appellate attorney must be able to artfully and clearly communicate, both in writing and orally, to a panel of judges a resolution that is both just and intellectually sound.

At Escobar & Associates, our Tampa criminal appeals lawyers have thorough knowledge of not only criminal law, but also state and federal rules of appellate procedure.

What Is An Appeal?

An appeal is like watching a sports game in slow motion for the second time. The purpose of an appeal is to review decisions of the trial court to determine if harmful legal error occurred. Legal error is harmful if it affects the outcome of the case. An "appellant" is the person who files the appeal and is challenging the judgment entered by the trial court. An appellee is the opposing party who is, in most cases, trying to uphold the judgment.

As a general rule, the time limit for starting a final appeal starts to run when the lower tribunal makes a final judgment. In criminal cases, this usually occurs when a defendant is sentenced. The appellant then has 30 days to file a notice of appeal. If the notice of appeal is not filed within that time, the appellate court does not have the power, or jurisdiction, to hear the appeal, and the appeal will be dismissed. As such, it is vital that you contact our office to ensure that your right to appeal is protected.

Once the notice of appeal is filed, the lower tribunal clerk prepares the record on appeal and sends it to the appellate court. The record on appeal is made up of all the motions, orders and exhibits that were part of the trial. It also has transcripts of any relevant hearings.

In addition to time limits for filing a notice of appeal, there are time limits for filing appellate briefs. Given these limits, it is critical that you hire an experienced, qualified appellate lawyer. By hiring Escobar & Associates, you are getting a team of dedicated, passionate lawyers who understand the many rules and standards of review and which ones apply. Not only does this increase your odds of winning, it may actually save you money in the long run.

What Is A Brief?

Appellate briefs are written legal arguments. These briefs are presented to the appellate court before oral argument. Oral argument is like a formal hearing before a trial judge. Unlike a trial, where only one judge is present, an appeal is heard by a panel of at least three judges. Importantly, no new evidence or arguments can be made on appeal. At Escobar & Associates, we dedicate ourselves to the art of persuasion. Appeals hinge on the kind of arguments presented to the court and how they are presented. That is exactly why it is so important to understand the importance of creative writing.

Standards Of Review

The issues an appellate court can review are limited or framed by what is called "the standard of review" that the appellate court uses to decide whether the trial judge made a mistake. The standard of review is how much the appellate court will give deference to, or question less strictly, the trial judge's rulings. Appellate courts give the greatest deference to findings of fact. This is because the trial judge or jury, not the appellate court, had the best opportunity to observe the witnesses and determine, firsthand, how truthful the witnesses appeared to be. Appellate courts will normally not find the lower tribunal's findings of fact to be a mistake unless the appellate courts decide the findings of fact are not supported by "competent, substantial evidence" or that they are "clearly erroneous."

Appellate courts also give a lot of deference to issues that involve both law and facts, such as rulings about what evidence would or would not be allowed during trial. As to those kinds of matters, the trial court has discretion, and appellate courts will not find these rulings to be mistaken unless an "abuse of discretion" is shown. This is because appellate courts respect the trial judge's and jury's ability to watch the witnesses who are testifying and to determine how believable those witnesses are.

Finally, appellate courts review with the least amount of deference to pure legal issues. This standard of review is called "de novo" review. Under the "de novo" standard of review, appellate courts look at the law and decide for themselves what the law says and what the decision of law should be.

At Escobar & Associates, we will advocate for the appropriate standard of review to protect and promote your pursuit of justice. As you can see, the arguments made in an appellate brief are very technical. If not properly presented, even a valid argument may be discounted and the appeal lost. If you or a loved one needs an experienced appellate attorney, contact Escobar & Associates for a free initial consultation. We practice throughout Florida and in federal court.

What Can Be Raised On Appeal

Appellate courts are limited in what they can review and decide. The trial level offers the only opportunity for parties to submit evidence, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and argue the facts and the law of the case. The appeals court only considers whether the trial was conducted properly and whether the outcome was reached by proper application of the law to the facts.

The following are different types of legal errors that can be raised on appeal:

  • Fundamental error. These errors go to the heart of the case. Even if the appellant fails to properly raise the issue in the trial court, the court can consider this kind of error in the interest of justice.
  • Harmful error. This error is one that is considered to have a probable impact on the outcome of the trial. If the error is harmful, the appellate court will overturn the ruling.
  • Invited error. This occurs if the appellant asks the trial court to make a ruling that is actually erroneous. If this occurs, the appellant cannot later appeal the trial court's decision on the basis of that error. Sometimes an ineffective attorney will invite error negligently. This may be corrected by means of a motion for post-conviction relief after the appeal is concluded.

At Escobar & Associates, we will advocate for you and promote your pursuit of justice. Our goal is not just to successfully argue current law, but also to change the law to make it more just and reasonable.

The Supreme Court

The Florida Supreme Court is the highest court in the state. Seven justices preside over this court.

According to the Florida Constitution, the Florida Supreme Court has the power or "jurisdiction" to hear cases dealing with the following:

Direct Jurisdiction Mandatory Review

The Florida Supreme Court has the power to review certain kinds of cases directly. That is, if an order deals with the following listed areas, then there may be a right of appeal directly to the Florida Supreme Court and, in given situations, it is not necessary to appeal to one of the district courts of appeal. Pertinent here, the most frequent direct appeals to the Florida Supreme Court concern the following:

  • Final orders of courts imposing death sentences
  • Decisions of district courts of appeal or lower tribunals declaring invalid a state statute or a provision of the state constitution

The Florida Supreme Court also has discretionary jurisdiction to hear certain matters. According to the powers vested in it, the court may hear the following issues; however, it is up to the court to decide, in its discretion, whether the court will hear those issues:

  • Decision of district courts of appeal that expressly declare valid a state statute
  • Expressly construe a provision of the state or federal constitution
  • Expressly affect a class of constitutional or state officers
  • Expressly and directly conflict with a decision of another district court of appeal or of the Florida Supreme Court on the same question of law
  • Pass upon a question certified to be of great public importance
  • Are certified to be in direct conflict with decisions of other district courts of appeal

The jurisdiction of the Florida Supreme Court must be invoked within 30 days from the rendition of the order or opinion to be reviewed. "Rendition" is when a signed, written order is filed with the clerk of the lower tribunal. The time period for invoking the Florida Supreme Court's jurisdiction is jurisdictional. That means that the "notice to invoke discretionary jurisdiction" must be filed no later than 30 days from the rendition of the order and filed in the court that issued the opinion. Failure to do so will bar the appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

Contact A Hillsborough County Conviction Appeal Attorney

The appellate lawyers at Escobar & Associates are passionate about providing effective legal representation that improves a client's situation. Contact Escobar & Associates in Tampa, Florida, for aggressive representation. Discover why clients have counted on our Hillsborough County conviction appeal attorneys since 1986.

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