The Indiana Criminal Appeals Process
The Indiana criminal appeals process is a legal procedure that allows a person convicted of a crime to request a higher court to review their case. Generally, the criminal appeals process in Indiana begins with filing a notice of appeal with the Clerk of the Court, which is followed by the appellant and their Indiana criminal appeals attorney preparing a Record on Appeal. Once that is complete, and the appellant and the appellee (the State or prosecutor) have filed their briefs, the case may proceed to oral arguments where both sides can present their arguments to a panel of judges. From there, the appellate court will evaluate the arguments and issue their decision upholding or overturning the conviction or sending the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.
As you may be able to tell already, criminal appeals are drastically different from regular trial court proceedings. They have a completely different character and require an attorney who possesses a comprehensive legal skillset. When looking for the best Indiana criminal appeals attorney to represent you, you’ll want to hire one who has a strong understanding of how appellate courts review trial court processes and is able to meet tight appellate court deadlines. Furthermore, you’ll want an attorney that can ably collect and organize a comprehensive record of everything that occurred at the trial level, and is adept at both identifying and communicating why a reversal is warranted.
If you’d like to speak with an Indiana criminal appeals lawyer today, call the Indianapolis attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP. As former deputy prosecutors, our attorneys have experience in both criminal trials and appeals, and they stand ready to help you navigate the complex proceedings ahead of you. To speak with a criminal appeals lawyer today call 317-751-7186 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
The Five Steps of the Indiana Criminal Appeals Process
Prior to filing a notice of appeal, it’s vital to have a strong understanding of the Indiana criminal appeals process. The reason is that the appeals process is vastly different from any other legal proceeding, and therefore requires a highly specific legal skillset and strategy. Given this, you’ll want to retain the services of an experienced attorney who understands the following five steps of the criminal appeals process in Indiana.
Step One: Filing a Notice of Appeal
For an appellant, the first step in the Indiana criminal appeals process is filing the Notice of Appeal with the Appellate Clerk’s office. This must be done within 30 days of the judgment of the trial court (the day the person was convicted), otherwise, the appellant may lose their right to appeal.
Generally, the Notice of Appeal should include a statement from the appellant explaining why they’re choosing to appeal their conviction and the outcome they’re seeking from the appellate court. It must include other information, including but not limited to:
- Name of the trial court
- Name of the trial judge
- Case number
- Names and contact information of all parties involved
- Specific issues being appealed
Furthermore, it’s important to note that the Clerk cannot file the Notice of Appeal until the appellant has successfully paid the Clerk a filing fee of $250. This rule, contained in the Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure, is true for all criminal appeals, except for those prosecuted in forma pauperis or on behalf of a governmental unit.
Step Two: Preparing Record on Appeal
Once the Notice of Appeal is filed with the Clerk of the Court, the Clerk will begin to prepare the Record on Appeal, a compilation of the trial court proceedings, and all other documents related to the case. Though it varies case-by-case, the Record of Appeal often includes a transcript of the trial court proceedings, exhibits that were admitted during the trial (such as photographs, videos, or documents), along with any other relevant documents, like motions, pleadings, and orders from the trial court.
Ultimately, the Record of Appeal is the document that the appellate court will utilize to review trial court proceedings when making their final determination. Therefore, it’s vital that this document is both accurate and complete. If the appellant or their Indiana appeals lawyer notices an error or would like to supplement the Record on Appeal, they’ll want to file a motion with the Clerk of the appellate court. The motion should include the specific correction that needs to be made to the Notice of Appeal, as well as an explanation of the reasons for the correction and any necessary supporting documents or information.
It is important to note that there may be specific rules or procedures that apply to filing a motion to correct a Notice of Appeal in Indiana. Appellants should consult the Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure and any local rules or guidelines for the appellate court in question to ensure that they follow the proper procedures.
In general, it is advisable to work with an experienced criminal appeals attorney in Indiana who can provide guidance and assistance with navigating the appellate process, including filing motions and correcting errors or omissions in court filings.
Step Three: Preparing and Filing Briefs
Preparing and filing briefs is one of the most important steps in the Indiana criminal appeals process, as it is the document that outlines the arguments that support the appellant’s claim that the conviction should be overturned. In addition to presenting arguments, the briefs may also cite legal authorities such as cases, statutes, or regulations that support the position of the appellant.
In Indiana, briefs must be filed within 30 days of when the Record on Appeal is filed with the appellate court. Failure to file briefs within this timeframe could subject the appeal to summary dismissal, however, it is possible to file a motion to extend the time to file the briefs.
For a successful appeal, an appellant’s briefs must be well-researched, well-organized, and well-written, as they’ll need to effectively convey the arguments and legal authorities to the appellate court. To achieve this, it’s highly recommended that the appellant works with a skilled criminal appeals lawyer in Indiana who has experience preparing and drafting these types of documents. To speak with an attorney today, call Keffer Hirschauer LLP at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation
Step Four: Appellate Decision and Oral Arguments
The decision to schedule oral arguments is made on a case-by-case basis, and the appellate court has broad discretion in determining whether oral arguments are necessary or appropriate. In some situations, where the issues are straightforward and the legal principles are clear, the appellate court may be able to reach a decision based solely on the briefs and other documents submitted by the appellant and appellee. In cases like these, the court would choose not to schedule oral arguments.
However, if the appellate court believes that oral arguments would help clarify certain issues in the case or would assist the judges in making a decision on the appeal, they may schedule oral arguments. The appellate court may also consider the complexity of the case, the novelty or importance of the legal issues at stake, and the potential impact of the decision on other cases.
If the court does elect to schedule oral arguments, both the appellant and appellee (State or prosecutor) will be given the opportunity to present their arguments in person to a panel of judges from the Indiana Court of Appeals. The length of oral arguments may vary, but in general, each side is allotted a set amount of time to present their arguments and respond to questions from the judges. The appellant’s attorneys, as well as the appellee’s, may also use the opportunity to expand on their arguments, respond to any concerns or questions raised by the judges, and address any additional legal authorities or cases that were not discussed in the briefs.
At the conclusion of this stage of the Indiana criminal appeals process (if one is scheduled, at all) the appellate court will consider all the briefs, oral arguments, and other related documents and proceed to issue a decision on the case.
Final Step of the Indiana Criminal Appeals Process: Further Review by The Indiana Supreme Court
If the Indiana Court of Appeals issues their decision and the appellant is not satisfied with the outcome, they may request a further review by the Indiana Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court does not have to hear the case, and if they choose not to, that decision is final.
To request a further review from the Indiana Supreme Court, the appellant shall file a Petition to Transfer. Per Rule 57 of the Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure, this petition must be filed within either 30 days of the appellate court’s decision if rehearing was sought, or 45 days after the adverse decision, if rehearing was not sought. Furthermore, the Petition to Transfer must include several elements, including:
- Question Presented on Transfer: a brief statement identifying the issue, question, or precedent warranting Transfer. The statement must not be argumentative or repetitive. The statement shall be set out by itself on the first page after the cover.
- Table of Contents: a table of contents containing each section of the petition, including the headings and subheadings of each section and the page on which they begin.
- Background and Prior Treatment of Issues on Transfer: a brief statement of the procedural and substantive facts necessary for consideration of the Petition to Transfer, including a statement of how the issues relevant to transfer were raised and resolved by any Administrative Agency, the trial court, and the Court of Appeals. To the extent extensive procedural or factual background is necessary, reference may be made to the appellate briefs.
- Argument: an argument section explaining the reasons why transfer should be granted.
- Conclusion: a short and plain statement of the relief requested.
- Word Count Certificate: a statement that reads as follows: “I verify that this Petition contains no more than 4,200 words,” and “I verify that this Petition contains (actual number) words.”
- Certificate of Service: a statement listing the date and manner of service, as well as the parties served. This statement shall be signed by the party or their attorney and may include a statement indicating that the document was served by mail, hand delivery, or electronic means.
It’s important to understand that when filing a Petition to Transfer there’s a significant chance that the Supreme Court will not elect to hear your case. Generally, the Indiana Supreme Court will only take up cases that involve conflicts between courts over legal issues; cases that involve important questions of law that have not yet been decided by the Supreme Court; cases with significant public interest or importance; or cases where the appellate court committed an error of law that needs to be corrected.
Further Questions about the Criminal Appeals Process in Indiana?
If you have further questions about the criminal appeals process in Indiana or would like to speak with an attorney about filing a Notice of Appeal, contact Indianapolis Law Firm of Keffer Hirschauer LLP as soon as possible. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling criminal appeals, as well as the research, writing, and litigation skills necessary to make a sound and persuasive argument on your behalf. To speak with an Indiana criminal appeals lawyer today, call 317-751-7186 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.