Appeal Process from a Michigan Appellate Lawyer

If you were wrongfully convicted or the judge and prosecutors violated your rights, you may have a valid issue for appeal. It may be possible to have your conviction reversed and get charges dismissed.

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Michigan Appellate Defense Attorneys

The appeal or appellate process in Michigan plays a crucial role in the criminal justice system by providing an avenue for defendants to challenge the decisions made in their cases. Compelling appellate arguments can significantly impact the outcome of a criminal appeal. While the success of an argument depends on various factors, such as the specific facts and legal issues involved, certain arguments have proven to be particularly effective in criminal appeals. Appeals are complex and minor errors can result in a dismissed appeal and the loss of your opportunity for appellate review. Closely following each of the procedural steps helps ensure the appellate court has the opportunity to review the factual and legal issues that concern you.

Appeal Process Advice from Michigan Attorney

These are the basic steps in filing an appeal of a criminal conviction:

The criminal appeal process in Michigan is complex, and few lawyers are qualified and capable of providing a strong appeal of a criminal conviction. There is no room for errors and mistakes in an appeal. If you are going to file an appeal, you should not take chances with an inferior lawyer. Do you want to win? An experienced appellate lawyer with a reputation for success gives you the best odds of success.

1. Filing the Claim of Appeal

Within 42 days of a felony conviction, the defendant must file a Claim of Appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals. The defendant preserves the right to appeal the conviction and sentence by filing a timely Claim of Appeal. The Claim does not have to state the basis for the appeal, merely that the defendant is taking an appeal. Along with the appeal, the defendant must file a copy of the lower court docket entries, proof that the transcripts of all the lower court proceedings have been ordered, and the Michigan Court of Appeals filing fee (currently $375.00).

Note: Some post-judgment motions may extend the 42-day timeline, like a Motion for New Trial.

2. Order the transcripts

Contact the court reporter (or reporters) in the trial court to order the transcripts of all pertinent hearings, motions, the trial, and sentencing. In Wayne County, there can be up to 10 court reporters on a case; in Oakland and Macomb, for example, there is usually 1 or 2 per case. The court reporter will require a money deposit to begin preparing the transcripts. Once the deposit is received, they will notify the Court of Appeals that the transcripts are ordered and their expected completion date. The appellate attorney’s responsible for babysitting the court reporter to ensure the certificate is filed promptly.

3. Prepare and File the Brief

Fifty-six (56) days after the transcripts are filed in the Court of Appeals, the Appellant’s Brief on Appeal will be due in the Court of Appeals. The Brief on Appeal is generally a complex and law-intensive document. The more errors claimed in the case, the more complex the appellate brief will be. The brief will contain the defendant’s legal arguments that entitle him to relief. The legal arguments are generally separated into subsections of the brief. The Michigan Court Rules dictate what the brief is to contain, how it will be formatted, and when and how it is filed. There must be a Table of Contents, an Index of Authorities, a concise statement of the questions presented, a statement of the pertinent facts, and the argument portion. It takes many years for a top criminal defense appellate lawyer to perfect a persuasive style in appellate pleadings.

4. Response to the Appellant’s Brief

Under the Michigan Court Rules, the prosecution must file its response to the Appellant’s brief within 35 days of the filing of the Appellant’s brief (absent any extensions of time which are liberally granted). Extensions can be sought by motion but are more commonly given by stipulation (agreement o the parties). If the prosecution fails to follow the appeal process in Michigan, it can lose its right to brief an issue or argue the appeal.

5. Reply to the Prosecution/Appellee Brief

The Defendant-Appellant has 21 days to reply to the arguments outlined in the prosecution’s brief from the day the reply is filed. The reply does not simply reiterate the arguments in the first brief; it is specifically meant to reply to the arguments made by the prosecution and provide law to counter any unanticipated arguments (factual or legal) that the prosecution included in its Response Brief.

6. Oral Argument Before the Court of Appeals

After all, briefs are filed, the Michigan Court of Appeals will likely schedule oral arguments. Arguments are made before a panel of 3 judges and are limited to 15 minutes. The appellate arguments are open to the general public, defendants on bond, and family members. If the defendant is in custody, he will not be allowed to attend an oral argument on the appeal. The judges will typically ask numerous questions during the argument. The questions are asked of both the defendant/appellant and the prosecution/appellee. Generally, they reflect on the issues the judges find most concerning or troubling about an issue on appeal.

7. Following the oral argument

The Court of Appeals will issue its written opinion either granting or denying the appeal (reversing the trial court, affirming the trial court, or remanding the case for clarification). The decision is almost always in writing and can take quite some time before completion. If the defendant wins, the Court of Appeals, depending on what is being asked, will order the defendant released and the case dismissed, grant a new trial, or remand the case to the trial court for resentencing. The prosecution has a limited time to request an appeal before the Michigan Supreme Court. If the defendant is in custody, they will generally stay in custody pending whether the additional appeal is filed. If the ruling favors the prosecution/appellee, the defendant can appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

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The Most Successful Arguments on Appeal in Criminal Matters

Some of the most successful arguments during the appellate process in Michigan include the following:

  • Violations of Constitutional Rights: One of the most compelling arguments on appeal is the violation of constitutional rights. Defendants often challenge their convictions or sentences by asserting that law enforcement, the prosecution, or the judge infringed their constitutional rights during the investigation or trial. For example, arguments involving violations of the Fourth Amendment (unlawful search and seizure), Fifth Amendment (self-incrimination), Sixth Amendment (right to counsel), or Fourteenth Amendment (due process) have a high chance of success if supported by solid evidence and legal precedent.
  • Ineffective Assistance of Counsel: Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel can be persuasive in appellate courts. Suppose a defendant can demonstrate that their defense attorney’s performance fell below the accepted standard of competence and that it had a detrimental effect on the outcome of their case. In that case, an appellate court may overturn the conviction or order a new trial. However, it is essential to note that establishing ineffective assistance of counsel can be challenging, as courts generally give deference to trial counsel’s strategic decisions.
  • Errors in Jury Instructions: Jury instructions are crucial in guiding jurors on the law applicable to the case. If the trial court provided incorrect, confusing, or incomplete jury instructions, it may constitute reversible error. Appellate courts carefully review the jury instructions to ensure they accurately conveyed the legal principles and did not prejudice the defendant. Errors in jury instructions that substantially affect the defendant’s rights can lead to a successful appeal.
  • Prosecutorial Misconduct: When prosecutors engage in misconduct during trial proceedings, it can undermine the fairness of the proceedings and violate a defendant’s rights. Examples of prosecutorial misconduct include improper remarks during opening or closing statements, suppression of exculpatory evidence, or presenting false evidence. If a defendant can demonstrate that such misconduct occurred and had a prejudicial impact on their case, it can provide a strong argument for appeal.
  • Insufficient Evidence: Appellate courts review the sufficiency of the evidence presented at trial to determine whether it was legally sufficient to support a conviction. If a defendant can show that the evidence presented against them was insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, it may lead to the reversal of the conviction. However, appellate courts generally defer to the jury’s factual determinations, and the threshold for overturning a conviction on insufficient evidence grounds is high. Also, a defendant might be precluded from arguing insufficiency of the evidence unless they first file a Motion for New Trial.

While the success of arguments on appeal in criminal matters depends on the specific circumstances of each case, certain arguments have proven to be more persuasive in appellate courts. Constitutional violations, ineffective assistance of counsel, errors in jury instructions, prosecutorial misconduct, and insufficient evidence are among the most successful. A thorough understanding of the law, diligent research, and persuasive advocacy are vital to mounting a robust appellate argument leading to a favorable outcome for the defendant.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

Michigan Appellate Defense Counsel – The Appeal Process in Michigan

Our appellate team handles appeals from convictions in circuit and district courts in Oakland County, Macomb County, Wayne County, Washtenaw County, Livingston County, and throughout Michigan. If you still have questions for a Michigan criminal defense attorney, please call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. for a free consultation and confidential case evaluation

Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete an online Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.

We will find a way to help you and, most importantly,
we are not afraid to win!

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