The Texas Appellate Process
Post-Verdict MotionsArticle 44.02 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure provides a criminal defendant the opportunity to appeal a conviction. This can begin in a number of ways. There are post-verdict motions available to a defendant.
Rule of Appellate Procedure 21.3 provides the ground to file a Motion for New Trial. There are several grounds listed in Rule 21.3 for which a Motion must be granted. A defendant wishing to file a Motion for New Trial must file the motion within 30 days of the date the court imposes or suspends sentence in open court according to Rule 21.4.
Pursuant to Rule 26.2, a Notice of Appeal must be filed by a defendant within 30 days after the sentence is imposed or suspended by the court, or after the day the court enters an appealable order, or within 90 days if the defendant files a timely Motion for New Trial.
Briefing the AppealFollowing this stage, the appellate court will docket the case for appeal and issue briefing schedules for the parties. These are the schedules denoting when each side's appellate brief is due with the court of appeals. Each party must submit written briefs arguing and supporting their propositions of law on appeal. Oral argument may be requested and granted by the appellate court.
The initial appeal is directed to the respective Court of Appeals for the Judicial District within which the trial court is located. There are currently 14 Courts of Appeals in Texas. Most of the Metroplex and surrounding area is located within two Courts of Appeals' jurisdiction; the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth and the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas. For a map of the all of the Courts of Appeals in Texas, click here.
Petition for ReviewFollowing the direct appeal, a defendant can petition for review to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, or the Texas Supreme Court for Juvenile cases. The Court of Criminal Appeals is the highest appellate court for criminal cases. Juvenile cases are civil in nature, and are reviewed by the Supreme Court. In order to seek review by either court, a defendant (or respondent in the juvenile cases) must submit a Petition for Discretionary Review to the Court. This Petition essentially asks the Court to consider the the appeal. If the Petition is granted, then both sides are then allowed to brief the case just as they did at the Court of Appeals. The only cases in Texas that are automatically accepted, and in fact do not need a PDR for acceptance at the Court of Criminal Appeals, are death penalty cases. In fact, death penalty cases automatically are appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals without the necessity of being first heard in the respective Court of Appeals.