4 Important Ways a Criminal Appeal Differs from a Criminal Trial

4 Important Ways a Criminal Appeal Differs from a Criminal Trial

For a Connecticut criminal lawyer and any criminal defendant most conversation, strategy, and planning pertains to the criminal trial. This is the appropriate venue for presenting contradictory evidence, putting witnesses on the stand, and accumulating testimony to defeat the prosecutor’s case. It is in a Connecticut trial court that you want to win an acquittal and dismissal of all charges.

In some instances, no matter how tough the defense or strategic your Connecticut criminal lawyer, the jury returns a guilty verdict. These losses are devastating, but they aren’t the last recourse for a Connecticut criminal defendant. At both the state and federal level there is the opportunity to appeal a criminal conviction.

A criminal appeal is significantly different from a criminal trial. In terms of process and procedure, there are almost no similarities. However, a few major differences standout as particularly influential. If you engage a Connecticut criminal lawyer for an appeal, here are four differences you should know ahead of time.

#1: No One Testifies in a Criminal Appeal

A Connecticut criminal appeal is not meant to introduce new evidence or information to the court. There is no opportunity to show a judge new documents or offer expert testimony. Rather, an appeals court is only allowed to consider the evidence and facts presented in the trial court. In the court of appeals, there are no witnesses and no one has to take the stand. This means there is also no testimony given in court.

Instead, only a Connecticut criminal lawyer and opposing prosecutor speak in court. Each lawyer is afforded the time to present their arguments to the appellate court judges in the form of an oral argument. All other information about the case is provided to the judges through an appellate brief and the record. Appellate briefs are prepared by each party to the case, while the record contains a transcript from the trial court, all documents offered into evidence, and any other objects accepted into evidence by the lower court.

#2: There Is No Jury in a Criminal Appeal

Another confusing, yet extremely important, aspect of the appellate process in Connecticut or federal court is the absence of jurors. During a criminal trial, you are afforded the right to a fair trial before a jury of your peers. This same process is not repeated in the appellate court because there are no issues of fact to determine.

A jury’s instructions during a criminal trial are simple in theory, albeit complicated in practice. Juries are instructed to consider the facts of a case and determine if based on those facts the Connecticut prosecutor proved each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jurors are not meant to make decisions around the application of the law, which is left to the judge. In a court of appeals, the only questions posed to the court involve legal analysis – hence, a lack of jurors.

In the place of jurors, there are nine appellate judges that comprise the Connecticut Appellate Court.

#3: Courts of Appeal Look for Legal Errors

A Connecticut or federal court of appeals isn’t considering new questions but is tasked by laws on criminal procedure to review the decision of the trial court. The only question before the Connecticut appellate court is whether there were legal errors in the decision or sentencing by the trial court.

For every case, the court of appeals hears it issues a decision. This decision either affirms the decision by the trial court, in which instance the conviction and sentence determined by the lower court will stand.

Alternatively, if the appellate court finds there was a legal mistake by the trial court it will overturn that part of the trial court’s decision and state the proper interpretation of the law. In these instances, a conviction might be overturned, a sentencing changed, or the appellate court may remand the decision back to the trial court for a new hearing.

#4: The Appellate Court Can Refuse to Hear a Case

Each year there are more appeals to the Connecticut Appellate Court that can be heard by the court. The court selects several cases to present oral arguments and then decides many other cases based on the appellate brief alone. However, the appellate court can also refuse to hear an appeal at all. The appellate court may determine it doesn’t have jurisdiction to hear the case or find that there isn’t an appealable issue presented for consideration. Other cases are deemed straightforward and correctly decided without considering the entire brief. The decision to hear cases is strictly afforded to the appellate court.

Hiring a Connecticut Criminal Lawyer for Your Appeal

If you are looking to appeal a criminal conviction or sentencing decision to the Connecticut Appellate Court, you need a lawyer with experience before this unique court. Even attorneys that have extensive success before the trial court could be incapable or unprepared to take an appellate case.

Alexander H. Schwartz, Attorney at Law, has the appellate experience you want and need. To learn more about this aspect of our criminal practice or engage Alexander Schwartz for a criminal appeal, contact our office at (203) 255-9829.


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