How To Appeal a Missouri Criminal Conviction.
This is a brief step by step guide to appealing a Missouri Criminal Conviction. It is not intended to give legal advice but is general information as to the Missouri Appeal process. You should consult an appellate lawyer if you wish to appeal your Missouri criminal conviction.
Before You Appeal.The groundwork for a successful criminal appeal is laid before you are convicted. Your trial attorney must bring challenges and objections in your case at the earliest possible time. Also, in Missouri, your trial attorney must include any trial court error in a motion for a new trial. If any issue is not raised at the earliest possible moment and not included in your motion for a new trial, the court of appeals considers the issue "unpreserved."
The Appeal.The notice of apeal must be filed within 10 days of your sentencing in the trial court. If you miss the deadline, however, you can ask the court of appeals for a special order allowing you to file a late notice of appeal. You must do this within one year of your sentence.
Once the notice of appeal is filed, the first documents that are filed with the appellate court is the Record on Appeal. This consists of the trial transcript and legal file (because only in rare instances can an appeal be taken from a guilty plea, almost all criminal appeals are from a conviction after a trial). The legal file contains those documents that make up your case, e.g. charging documents, motions to suppress evidence, sentence and judgment. An appellant has 90 days to file the Record on Appeal from the date the notice of appeal is filed in the trial court.
Once the Record on Appeal is filed, the appellant will then have 60 days to file his or her opening brief. The State will then have 30 days to file a brief. Finally, the appellant can file a reply brief within 15 days of the State's brief. In the brief, the appellant sets out what are called his or her Points Relied Upon. Missouri rules are very specific as to how an appellant sets out his or her argument. Again, the arguments on appeal will usually concern trial court error. These issues include, but are not limited to: the admittance or exclusion of evidence or testimony, jury instructions, the sufficiency of the evidence, and picking a jury. If the trial lawyer, however, failed to properly preserve an issue for appeal, an appellant will have a much harder time in succeeding. Again, if the trial attorney did not give the trial court the opportunity to correct the error at the first opportunity and preserve that error in a motion for a new trial, the issue is not considered preserved for appellate review. The issue, however, still can be raised as a plain error which is a higher standard of review for the appellate court.
In addition to briefing the case, the appellate court may hold oral argument on the case. This consists of arguing your case in front of three appellate judges. Oral arguments are not necessarily automatically granted. Appellants may receive a notice that the case will be submitted on the briefs. If that happens you may request that the case be placed on the oral argument calendar to be argued. The appellate court automatically places some cases on the oral argument docket.
After the case is fully briefed and oral argument has occurred, if allowed, the appellate court will decide the issues on appeal. Depending on the issues, the appellate court could vacate the conviction and sentence for a new trial, vacate the conviction without a new trial, or vacate the sentence for resentencing. In some cases, the appellate court may vacate a sentence but rather than returning it to the trial court, impose a new sentence.
What if You Lose?Do not give up all hope if the court of appeals affirms your conviction and sentence. There are post-opinion motions you can file in the court of appeals. If these are unsuccessful you can seek relief by filing in the Missouri Supreme Court.