Appealing a Criminal Conviction in Georgia

Just because someone has been convicted by a jury and found guilty in a criminal case, doesn’t mean the case is necessarily over. All criminal defendants maintain the right to appeal a conviction. Defendants can file an appeal and request that the conviction be overturned and a new trial granted. In Georgia, murder cases are appealed to the Supreme Court of Georgia and all other felonies are appealed to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

The Mechanics of the Appeal

The first step in getting an appeal in Georgia after conviction is to file what is called a “motion for new trial” within thirty days of the verdict or judgment. Filing even a basic motion for new trial stops the clock from running and allows your attorney the necessary time to request the trial transcripts and compile other evidence. The motion for new trial also gives the defendant an opportunity to try to convince the trial court to overturn the conviction and to grant a new trial.

If the trial judge denies the motion for new trial, a notice of appeal must then be filed within thirty days of the denial. Once the case is docketed with the appellate court and the record is prepared, each side (the defense and the prosecution) prepare briefs that they submit to the court. If necessary, the court can hear oral arguments from each party regarding the contested legal issues. The court will then issue a decision.

What Kind of Issues Can be Addressed in an Appeal?

Some of the most common claims made in a criminal appeal are ineffective assistance of counsel and insufficiency of the evidence. Ineffective assistance of counsel is where the trial attorney’s representation in the case was deficient and where (but for that deficiency) the outcome of the trial would have been different. Examples of ineffective assistance of counsel can include failure to prepare a proper defense, interview witnesses, or object to prejudicial or irrelevant evidence coming in to evidence at trial.

Other appellate issues include prejudicial or irrelevant material being introduced into evidence over the objection of the defense attorney; and denials of motions to suppress evidence or statements made in violation of the Fourth or Fifth Amendments. Appellate lawyers can also challenge comments made by the prosecutor, judge, or witnesses during trial as well as technical issues during jury selection or the charging conference.

Other Ways to Appeal a Conviction

If the Court of Appeals denials your appeal, you can request that the Supreme Court of Georgia review your case through filing a petition for certiorari. These petitions, however, are discretionary — meaning that the court does not have to take your case.

Another way of appealing a criminal conviction is through filing a state petition for habeas corpus. State habeas petitions are civil motions designed to challenge constitutional issues such as ineffective assistance of counsel. After all all avenues have been exhausted, there is such a thing as federal habeas corpus petition as well as extraordinary motions. These final motions are rare, but can be sought if no other options are available.