My name is J.D. Lloyd and I help folks convicted of crimes continue their fight for justice. One of the ways I help might clients continue to fight is by appealling their convictions to a higher court. Since I practice in Birmingham, Alabama, most of my appeals are to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals or the Alabama Supreme Court. Here are some of the most frequent questions I get asked about these appeals:
1. Can I stay out of prison while my appeal is going?
You may be eligible for an appeal bond while we are appealing your conviction through the higher courts. If you have been given a sentence that's 20 years or less, you are entitled to an appeal bond. If you've been sentenced to a term of imprisonment over 20 years, you are not eligible for an appeal bond.
2. How long will the appeal take?
It's going to take a few months. Depending on the length or complexity of the case, it can take anywhere from four months to a couple of years for the appellate court to decide on your case. Most cases average around 9 months.
3. My trial attorney was terrible. Can we bring that up on appeal?
Maybe. Before you can raise claims about how your trial attorney might have screwed up -- also known as claims of ineffective assistance of counsel -- we have to make sure those claims were raised in a motion for new trial. If those claims were raised in a motion for new trial, or if there's still time to file a motion for new trial and raise those claims, we can point out to the trial court all the claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and then raise them on appeal if we're unsuccessful with the motion for new trial. If these claims were never raised, you will have to wait until your appeal runs it's course to file a new petition for post-conviction relief.
4. Can the Court of Criminal Appeals give me a lower sentence?
Unfortunately, no. Sentencing is left up to the trial judge. We will not be able to get a lighter sentence on appeal unless we're able to get your conviction reversed or thrown out.
5. I have some stuff that should have been presented at trial. Can we bring that up on appeal?
No. The appellate court will have a copy of everything that happened at your trial -- all the filings, motions, and transcripts. This is called the "record on appeal." The appellate court is bound to make its decisions based upon only the record on appeal. It will not consider evidence or statements that are not contained in the record and that weren't first presented to the trial court.
6. If I lose my appeals, then what? Am I done??
No, there is still fighting to do! If you lose your appeal to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, we can ask the Alabama Supreme Court to review the Court of Criminal Appeals' decision. If the Alabama Supreme Court doesn't agree with us, we can ask the United States Supreme Court to take a look at our case.
If these appeals aren't successful, you can file a petition for post-conviction relief, which is called a "Rule 32 petition." This is where folks generally raise their claims of ineffective assistance of counsel or claims of newly-discovered evidence.
If the Alabama courts won't give us relief, we can go to the federal courts and file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. We will have to explain how Alabama violated your federal rights in these proceedings.