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Indiana Criminal Appeal Lawyers

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Indiana criminal appeals are not like trial court proceedings—they are completely different, in feel and character, even though they arise out of the same conviction. Keffer Hirschauer LLP criminal appeal attorneys know the unique dynamics of the appellate process and complexities Indiana criminal defense. The firm’s team of experienced criminal defense attorneys, which includes former deputy prosecutors, has the criminal trial and appellate experience you need at this critical time in your case.

What Makes Our Criminal Appeal Attorneys Special

The period after conviction and sentencing is not the end—it is only the beginning, at least for criminal appeal purposes. From this point on, Indiana criminal appeals are in the unique and contradictory position of moving both quickly and slowly. The deadline to file an appeal arrives quickly, but the entire period of appealing a conviction through to completion can move quite slowly.

At a criminal trial, a criminal defense lawyer wears many hats—negotiator, advocate, litigator, and preserver. Zealous representation requires quick thinking at times, and a trial attorney often has the difficult challenge of making significant decisions quickly.

Criminal appeal attorneys have very different responsibilities. At the appeal stage, the goal is to convince the appellate court that an error at the trial court made the conviction or sentence unfair or contrary to law, warranting a different outcome. The appellate court acts in a review capacity, not as a trial court. In other words, the appeal reviews the process rather than the evidence.

Criminal appeal attorneys spend their time performing some key functions:

  • Appreciating tight appellate court deadlines
  • Collecting and organizing a comprehensive record on appeal
  • Reviewing the record on appeal to identify errors warranting a different outcome in your case
  • Communicating in writing why reversal is warranted
  • Persuading the appellate court through written brief and sometimes oral arguments to agree that an error requires correction

Your appellate lawyers do not have to be the same attorneys who represented a client at trial. In some cases, because of the unique set of research, writing, and persuasive skills required, criminal appeal attorneys who were not trial counsel often provide fresh perspectives and are able to comb the record for opportunities. The criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are experienced at both trial-level and appellate-level criminal defense strategies and can step up at trial, on appeal, or both to make sure the courts have not disregarded your rights.

Deciding to Appeal: By Right or Permission

The first step in appealing a conviction is deciding to appeal. Appealing a criminal conviction or sentence in Indiana means challenging some decision by the trial court or the verdict of the jury. However, the appeal does not usually mean presenting new evidence. Instead, the appellate court reviews what happened before the trial court, using the information presented below, to see whether the trial court made one or more material errors of law that affected the outcome of your case.

Knowledgeable criminal appeal attorneys have the insight and experience to identify potential bases for a criminal appeal. Possible arguments in appealing a conviction or sentence include:

  • The trial court made an error in applying the law
  • The evidence does not support the verdict or judgment
  • The defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel, a violation Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution
  • The lower court abused its discretion when it ruled on a motion

If you are convicted of a criminal offense, you have one automatic right to appeal, depending on the reason raised in the appeal. Other appeals are considered discretionary appeals, which require the court’s permission. Discretionary criminal appeals arise in a couple of ways:

  • The Court of Appeals of Indiana has already heard the client’s appeal and the client wishes to appeal that court’s decision to the Indiana Supreme Court
  • An interlocutory or interim order has issued that normally cannot be immediately appealed, but the appellate court finds it necessary to allow the appeal because of the importance of the particular decision

Most appeals go to the Court of Appeals of Indiana, but certain appeals go directly to the Indiana Supreme Court, such as an appeal from a sentence of life in prison or capital punishment.

The Indiana Appeal Process for Convictions and Sentencing

The Indiana appeal process, which usually follows sentencing, is relatively routine. A basic outline can be seen on the infographic[A1] on this page. Criminal appeal attorneys seeking review of a conviction or sentence begin the process by filing a notice of appeal with the Clerk of the Indiana Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Tax Court in accordance with Rule 9 of the Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure. The appellate lawyer must file the notice of appeal within 30 days of the conviction or sentence appealed. The notice of appeal also includes a request for the trial court to prepare a transcript of the entire evidentiary hearing, if any, and for the trial court clerk to assemble the trial court record. Upon gathering all parts of the clerk’s record, the trial court clerk retains the clerk’s record of the case and the completed transcript until the appellate court requests them.

After the transcript and record are complete, your criminal appeal attorney reviews them to prepare an opening brief that sets out one or more reasons your conviction and/or sentence don’t comply with the law. The opening brief, called the brief of the appellant, must be filed with the appellate court and copied to the State’s attorney no later than 30 days after the notice of completion of the record or transcript.

The Indiana Attorney General represents the State in your case and has 30 days to file a response brief, also known as the brief of the appellee, simultaneously serving a copy on your attorney. Your appellate lawyer then has 15 days to file a reply brief with the appellate court, responding to the State’s arguments.

Although criminal cases at the trial level involve hearings, that is not always the case when you are appealing a conviction. On appeal, either party may file a request within seven days after the last reply brief was due, asking the court to hold an oral argument, or the court may set an oral argument on its own motion. If the court sets an oral argument, the hearing allows a panel of appellate judges to question the criminal appeal attorneys and State’s attorney, often lasting no more than 30 minutes.

After all briefs have been filed, the Court of Appeals of Indiana reviews the arguments in the briefs from both sides, the transcript, and the clerk’s record. Weeks or months can pass while judges deliberate, during which time the court may ask for additional information. The appellate court eventually issues a written decision in the form of an opinion or memorandum decision. Either party may ask the Court of Appeals for further review of the court’s decision by filing a written request for rehearing within 30 days of the decision, but the appellate court may grant or deny such a request.

If the decision from the Court of Appeals of Indiana is not favorable, criminal appeal attorneys usually discuss with their clients the pros and cons of filing a petition for transfer, which is discussed in more detail below.

The waiting throughout the Indiana appeal process is frustrating for clients. One consolation for Keffer Hirschauer LLP clients during this period is knowing that established criminal appeal attorneys, who know the intricacies of Indiana criminal law, research, writing, and persuasion, have conducted meticulous research and used their experience in criminal appeals to prepare an appeal that persuasively argued the client’s position.

Reasons to Appeal a Criminal Case

You can appeal your conviction, your sentence, or both. You might ask the court for a few different things:

  • Reversal of your conviction or a judgment of conviction for a lesser offense
  • The entry of a judgment of conviction for a lesser charged offense
  • A new trial
  • A different or lesser sentence
  • A recalculation of sentencing time
  • Fees and costs

Reasons to appeal a criminal case based on the criminal conviction itself may involve large or small issues or both. General categories include arguments that:

  • Guilt was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt
  • The trial court refused to give a jury instruction or gave a legally incorrect jury instruction
  • The trial court erred in admitting or refusing the admission of certain evidence
  • Evidence was insufficient for the conviction
  • There was prosecutorial or jury misconduct

Reasons to appeal a criminal case based on the sentence include such items as:

  • The trial judge abused his or her discretion in the length or type of sentence ordered
  • The sentence is does not comply with Indiana criminal law on sentencing
  • The sentence is outside the terms of a plea bargain
  • The judge failed to consider mitigating factors
  • The judge considered improper aggravating factors

Every case is different. Having the sound advice of criminal appeal attorneys is ideal because they have a wealth of knowledge based on past experience with other clients, courts, judges, appellate procedure, and the law itself.

How the Court of Appeals of Indiana Conducts its Review

Criminal trials are replete with opportunities for error—there is so much going on at the trial court level that errors are frequently made. The question is, how serious is the error? When the appellate court finds harmless error, it has determined that an error was committed but it did not affect the defendant. Therefore, the defendant is not entitled to relief on appeal.

Alternatively, if the appellate court finds that an error below affected one or more of your substantial rights, then you may be entitled to one or more of the forms of relief listed above.

The appellate court applies a different type of scrutiny or standard of review to each error depending on the type of error alleged:

  • Great deference: The trial court was in the best position to judge the credibility of witnesses. As a result, an appellate court will not reverse or disagree with a trial court’s decision on a question of fact unless the decision was nonsensical.
  • De novo: If people agreed on the facts but not on which law applied, the reviewing court looks at all of the facts and circumstances and may make its own determination of the issue without any deference to the trial court’s decision.
  • Abuse of discretion: In some cases, a trial court has latitude in how it rules on an issue. In reviewing such issues on appeal, the appellate court reverses the trial court’s decision only if it was against the logic and effect of the circumstances in the case. This level of review is often applied to evidentiary rules such as issues relating to the admissibility of expert opinions.
  • Clearly erroneous: In some situations, the appellate court may find that the conclusion just does not follow from the facts presented to the trial court.

Skillful appeal attorneys like those found at Keffer Hirschauer LLP know which standard applies to each issue raised on appeal and how to raise and argue issues to the client’s best advantage.

Managing the Results of the Decision

After reviewing the briefs and the record appeal and, in some cases, holding oral argument, the appellate court’s opinion or decision can do one or more of the following:

  • Affirm all or part of the decision of the trial court, finding that the lower court’s result was correct or that any error in the lower court did not affect the outcome
  • Reverse all or part of the decision of the trial court and order the trial court to enter a different judgment
  • Remand the case back for further proceedings on one or more issues

If the Court of Appeals affirms a conviction or sentence, the case is still not necessarily over. Depending on the circumstances, criminal appeal attorneys may advise filing a petition to transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court. If the Indiana Supreme Court grants transfer, it assumes jurisdiction, and the decision of the Court of Appeals of Indiana is vacated, meaning it is set aside and has no effect unless later affirmed or incorporated by the higher court. Once the Indiana Supreme Court assumes jurisdiction, it proceeds with its own appellate process that includes briefing, possibly an oral argument, and the issuance of an opinion.

Related Considerations and Other Options

An appellate lawyer regularly encounters complex proceedings. In addition to appealing a conviction or sentence after the conclusion of a case, there are other types of appeals that appellate attorneys might pursue that could affect your conviction or sentence. Interlocutory appeals are from trial court rulings and sometimes involve the granting or denial of a motion of some kind.

Some cases interlocutory appeals are as of right, meaning you merely need to follow the steps for appealing in a timely manner. Examples of matters qualifying for an interlocutory appeal as of right include:

Appeals from trial court rulings are generally discretionary. In other words, you can ask permission to file an interlocutory appeal of a ruling on a motion before the end of your case, but the appellate court may deny the request, in which case you could add that issue to your appeal as of right at the conclusion of your case.

After a conviction and unsuccessful appeal, there are still opportunities for relief, given the right circumstances. Post-conviction relief, for instance, challenges the legality of some aspect of a criminal trial or sentencing. The criminal appeal attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP represent clients in post-conviction relief proceedings and sentence modifications as well, which are both distinct from criminal appeals.

An Appellate Lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP Can Make a Difference

Hiring an appellate lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP gives you counsel experienced in both criminal law and the complexity of the appellate process. The rules for appealing are strict and unforgiving. You want to make sure you are in the capable hands of attorneys who regularly navigate the Indiana appeal process. The criminal appeal attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are just that. For a free consultation, call Keffer Hirschauer LLP at (317) 202-1163 or use our online contact form.

If you have questions regarding an appeal, or if you are looking for a sentence modification, contact Keffer Hirschauer LLPat (317) 202-1163 right away.

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