When Can I Appeal My Conviction?
In Connecticut, you will have twenty days from the date you are SENTENCED to file your appeal. However, it is best to discuss an appeal with your trial attorney prior to being convicted so that he or she can protect your interests in the event your are convicted. For instance, he or she will want to be prepared to give the court notice of your intent to appeal and argue for post-conviction bail. If your trial attorney does not do appeals, or if you intend to use a different attorney for your appeal, then you will want to research and hire an appellate attorney with enough time for him or her to file the necessary appeal papers before the twenty day limit runs out. If you are having trouble with the process and are in danger of missing the twenty day deadline, you should ask your trial attorney to file for an extension of time well in advance of the twenty day time limit.
What Can I Appeal?
You will discuss possible issues to appeal with your appellate attorney, who will ultimately determine what issues are viable. These may include evidentiary rulings by the trial judge, issues with jurors, whether there was enough evidence to sustain your conviction, and possible misconduct by the prosecutor. Your attorney will review the trial transcripts, which you will need to order, in order to determine whether any potential issue is supported by the record, which includes both the transcripts and any evidence submitted at trial.
What Needs To Be Filed For Your Appeal?
The appeal process happens in stages. First, an Appeal from must be filed within the twenty day time limit, unless an extension has been granted. This form must be filed at the Superior Court along with the necessary filing fee, unless you have been granted a fee waiver. The clerk of the Superior Court will endorse the Appeal, and then notice of the Appeal must be sent to all parties of record, and proof of service must be kept. Once the Appeal form is filed at the Superior Court, the endorsed form must be filed with the Appellate Clerk, along with certain preliminary papers. Additionally, if not already done, the trial transcripts must be ordered from the Court Reporter's Office. Your brief, in which the legal challenges to your conviction are presented to the Court, is due 45 days from the date the trial transcripts are received, though you may request an extension of time if needed.
What Will The State's Attorney File?
The State's Attorney will file a Brief in response to yours, wherein they will ask the Court, in almost every case, to uphold your conviction. They will have 45 days from the date your brief is filed, but again they may ask for an extension of time that could prolong the due date of their brief.
Timeline: How Long Should I Expect My Appeal To Take?
Given the length of your trial, the complexity of the issues, and the flexibility of the process due to extensions of time and other procedural issues, you should expect your appeal to take anywhere from a year to two years from the time it is filed until the time you receive a decision from the Appellate Court. Generally, your appeal will follow this course: filing the appeal, filing the brief, filing the State's brief, filing a reply brief, docketing for oral argument, oral argument, and a decision.
What Happens If I Win?
Depending upon the legal issue you win, you may win a new trial, or you may win your freedom. For instance, if you succeed in challenging the sufficiency of the evidence presented against you at trial, such that the Appellate Court decides there was not enough evidence to establish your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, your conviction will be reversed and you will be released (assuming the State does not appeal the reversal). Or, if you succeed in challenging the admission of certain evidence presented against you at trial, the Appellate Court may reverse your conviction and order a new trial.
What Happens If I Lose?
If your appeal is unsuccessful, you can seek to have your case heard by the state Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court does not have to hear your case and they may simply decline to do so, in which case your conviction will stand and you must serve your sentence, though you may still pursue other relief such as a Writ of Habeas Corpus.
What Should I Do?
As you can see, the Appeal process is very technical and one in which you are best served by a specialist with experience appealing criminal convictions. Therefore, your best option is to retain a criminal appellate attorney. As with a trial, you have the option of hiring a private attorney or, if you cannot hire a private attorney and you qualify, you can hire a public defender.