You seem confused enough that you really should consult a lawyer face to face; most will give you a free consultation first time. BUT, be careful. You have only 60 days from sentencing to file a notice of appeal. You don't tell the judge at all. You file a document with the clerk of the Court signed by you which sayd little more than "Notice of Appeal." That starts everything off and the record of your trial proceedings will be transmitted to the COA. This may take some time depending on the length of your trial but as long as you file the "Notice"w/i 60 calendar days of sentencing you will be all right.
I certainly hope that you are not going to try to appeal a criminal case by yourself. It is a very bad idea.
An appeal is a review of a lower court decision by a higher court. The details of how it is done vary from state to state, but in general the appeal is taken to a panel of three, five or seven judges who examine the proceedings in the trial court to decide whether the result was tainted by legal error. The appellate court hears no witnesses and considers no new factual matter at all. 97% of the appeal is conducted in writing, with perhaps a single oral argument at which the attorneys are sharply questioned by the judges about the legal analysis of the case. The heart of the appeal is a written argument called a brief, which is in fact a short book prepared by the attorney, typically perhaps twenty to fifty pages long, explaining why important legal decisions made before or duing trial were both legally wrong and so prejudicial as to make the result of the trial unfair. And, of course, the prosecutor also submits a brief explaining why the decisions made in the trial court were correct and should be upheld.
The burden of persuasion on the appellant, that is, on the person taking the appeal. Since the appellant's arguments have already failed to persuade the trial judge it is obvious that a case does not normally go to appeal unless the claims of error are doubtful enough that lawyers and judges can disagree as to the proper outcome. This is the reason that it is such a bad idea for non-lawyers to try to handle their own appeals. The work is on too subtle a legal level. Even many experienced attorneys prefer to refer appeal work to an appellate specialist.
The only good advice anybody can give you is to rely on an attorney who knows how to handle criminal appeal work in your state. If you cannot afford an attorney for your appeal the court will appoint counsel for you. But attend to this immediately. The deadline for initiating an appeal can be very short. In some states, for example, a "Notice of Appeal" normally has to be filed within thirty days of final judgment. In the federal system the deadline is fourteen days from the judgment. What you have to do to get the appeal started, and when you have to do it, varies from state to state but the consequences of missing a deadline can be very serious and might even terminate your appeal before it even begins.
You need an attorney on top of this immediately.
There are a number of reasons to appeal a case, but it's not something that you can do without a lawyer. Notices of Appeal must be filed within 30 days of sentencing for misdemeanors and within 60 days of sentencing for felonies. A Notice of Appeal, does not state the reason for the appeal. Once a Notice of Appeal is filed, a court appointed lawyer will be provided to an indigent person. Or, a private attorney can be hired. The attorney will read the entire record and write up any appellate issues that exist. Good luck to you.
There are a myriad of issues to look for when counsel is appealing a case on behalf of a client. Its important to note, however, the distinction between how a trial is conducted and how an appeal is handled. Many people erroneously believe that an appeal is a process where you submit the evidence a second time and hope for a different result. But with an appeal, you are asserting errors in the trial court: prosecutorial misconduct (and there are many recognized improper tactics of prosecutors); trial court errros (where the court improperly allowed or disallowed evidence); ineffective assistance of defense counsel), to name just a few, and you are asking the appellate court for a reversal of the conviction and/or a new trial. In addition to appeals, there are other post-conviction remedies available such Habeas Corpus; writ of prohibition; writ of supercedus, etc.
Appeals are extremely difficult to handle for a non lawyer. Additionally, appeals are time sensitive. Typically, the issue on appeal is dependent on what occurred during the trial or pretrial hearing. Some of the most common grounds for an appeal include: (1) the trial court erred as a matter of law, (2) the court misapplied the law, (3) the jury was improperly instructed, and (4) insufficient evidence to support the conviction. I would strongly urge you to retain an attorney to do the appeal. Appeal are to easily lost because of a procedural error.
My response to your question is a generic response and should not be construed as controlling to your case. I can not effectively advise about your case without knowing all the facts. Additionally, my response does not create an attorney-client relationship. You can contact my office to schedule an appointment if you would like to have me represent you.