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Other general matters | Knoxville Criminal Defense Attorneys

State and Federal Criminal Appeals in Tennessee

If you or a loved one has been convicted of a crime at either the state or federal level in Tennessee, it is essential to understand the criminal appeals process and the perspective of the appellate courts. A criminal appeal is the next line of defense after a conviction and offers an opportunity to challenge a conviction or the outcome of a criminal matter based on error at the trial level. Navigating the appeals process is complex and requires the detailed focus, knowledge, and application of law by a qualified criminal appellate lawyer.

Knox Defense is proud to have successfully represented defendants in both state and federal courts, including the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, the Tennessee Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court. With decades of experience inside and outside the courtroom, we have established ourselves as East Tennessee's premier criminal law firm. Our trial and appellate practice and the cases we have handled have been the subject matter of local and national print, web, and television reporting and investigative journalism.

Challenging Unjust Convictions

It is important to note that appeals are not retrials. Rather, the focus of the appellate court is primarily on legal issues and errors that may have occurred at the trial level and therefore submission of new evidence or witness testimony is not generally permitted. The responsibility of the appeals court is to review the evidence presented during the trial and determine whether any errors made by the trial court warrant a reversal, retrial, dismissal, or resentencing. Having an attorney who understands the procedural aspects of the appellate process, the law surrounding error at trial, and can who deliver a compelling and persuasive argument is key to achieving a successful outcome in an appeal.  An effective appellate attorney is one who is willing to take the time to understand the issues presented by the case and how to make your arguments compelling to the appellate court.

The Criminal Appeals Process

Whether in state or federal court, the first step in initiating a criminal appeal is filing a Notice of Appeal with the appropriate appellate court. This notice formally notifies the court and the prosecution of your intent to challenge the conviction or certain aspects of the trial. Once the Notice of Appeal is filed, the appellate court will request the trial court to prepare the record of the case. The record includes transcripts of court proceedings, exhibits, and other relevant documents. This record will be crucial for presenting arguments and issues on appeal.

The appellate process relies heavily on written arguments presented in the form of a document called a brief. Your attorney will prepare an appellate brief outlining the legal arguments challenging the conviction or errors made during the trial. The prosecution, called the appellee once an appeal process begins, will also file a brief presenting counter-arguments. In some cases, the appellate court will schedule a hearing known as an oral argument, to allow the attorneys the opportunity to present the issues, argue points of law, and address questions posed by the appellate judges that further clarify the positions of the parties.

After considering those written, oral, and responsive arguments, one or more of the judges on the appellate court will issue a written decision. The court may affirm the conviction, reverse the conviction, or remand the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. The appellate court's decision is typically final unless the case is further appealed to a higher court.

Grounds for Criminal Appeals

Various grounds may form the basis for criminal appeal in either state or federal court. Common issues to raise after trial may include:

  • Errors in the Trial Court: Appeals can be based on errors committed by the trial court, such as the admission of improper evidence, incorrect jury instructions, abuse of discretion, violations of the defendant's constitutional rights, or misconduct. These are typically the issues raised in a direct appeal.
  • Ineffective Assistance of Counsel: If the defendant believes their trial attorney provided ineffective representation, it can be raised as a ground for appeal. In such cases, it must be demonstrated that the attorney's performance fell below the accepted standards and that this deficiency affected the outcome of the case.  These issues are typically raised in a different type of challenge called a petition for post-conviction relief.
  • Newly Discovered Evidence: If new evidence emerges that was not available during the trial which could have potentially impacted the outcome, a criminal appeal may be pursued to introduce this evidence.  These issues are typically raised in a type of challenge called a writ of error coram nobis.

Navigating the criminal appeals process requires extensive knowledge of the law, procedure, and a sound history of criminal defense experience. At Knox Defense, our dedicated team of criminal defense attorneys has a deep understanding of the criminal appellate process in Tennessee. Throughout our decades of experience, we have successfully secured new trials, reduced penalties, shortened sentences, and, in some cases, obtained exonerations for our clients. We will thoroughly review your case, identify potential grounds for appeal, and craft persuasive arguments to present to the appellate court.

Our goal is to protect your rights, seek justice, and pursue the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today or fill out our online form to schedule a confidential consultation regarding your criminal appeal today.

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