How do Appeals Work in Criminal Cases?


How do Appeals Work in Criminal Cases?

Being found guilty in a criminal court of law in Arizona doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Those convicted of a crime may be eligible to appeal the court’s ruling by applying to a higher court to reverse the decision of the court in which they were found guilty. Appeal cases are heard in special appellate courts, of which the supreme court of Arizona is the highest court of authority (the “court of last resort”). These appellate courts have higher power than the superior courts, justice courts, and city/municipal courts within Arizona.

How Does an Appeal Work?

When a criminal case is appealed, the defendant is not given a new trial or a second chance to submit a defense. Instead, appellate courts will review the case to see if the lower court in which the case was tried made an error of some sort that was significant enough to have impacted the verdict or sentencing of the case. If the appellate court finds that a mistake occurred, the case will be returned to the lower court for a new trial that may or may not result in a different outcome.

Who Can File an Appeal?

Only defendants who have been convicted and found guilty through trial are eligible to appeal their case. Those who pled guilty through a plea agreement may not appeal, as signing a plea automatically waives the defendant’s right to appeal.

Additionally, an appeal may only be filed on certain grounds pursuant to A.R.S. 13-4033, which include:

  • Inadequate defense by the defense attorney.
  • Suspected violation of constitutional rights.
  • Illegal or excessive sentencing.
  • Verdicts of convictions of guilty except insane.
  • An order denying the motion for a new trial.

What is the Timeline for Filing an Appeal?

Anyone who wishes to file an appeal must file a Notice of Appeal with the court. Additionally, the notice of appeal must be filed within 20 days of the oral pronouncement of the defendant’s sentence. Once an appeal is in motion, it can take a few months to a few years to ultimately resolve.

Who Can Represent Me in an Appeal?

Just as in a defendant’s original case, a public defender will be appointed to an appeal case for anyone who cannot afford a private attorney. Additionally, a defendant may choose to represent themself.

However, appeals are usually quite complicated, and hiring a criminal defense attorney that is able to give the appeal the attention needed is recommended. Defendants should be aware that due to the quick timeline, as well as the potential length of the entire process, appeal cases with a private defense attorney are often quite costly.

What are the Possible Outcomes of an Appeal?

Just because a defendant files an appeal does not mean there will be any change to their original sentencing. Any of the following outcomes could occur as a result of an appeal:

  • The lower court’s original sentencing and conviction will be affirmed and will remain.
  • The lower court’s original conviction will be affirmed and remain but the sentencing will be modified.
  • The lower court’s conviction will be reversed and the defendant will go through a new trial.
  • The lower court’s conviction will be reversed the defendant’s charges will be dismissed.



With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.

Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:

  • charges that are reduced or dropped.
  • top experts reviewing your case.
  • aggressive negotiations with the prosecution for plea bargains.
  • fines or probation in lieu of jail time.

At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.

Call us today for a free consultation at 480-584-3328.

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