The Differences Between Federal And State Criminal Appeals
When you are found guilty of a federal or state crime, you have the right to file an appeal. The appellate process is often confusing to individuals who have no prior experience with the criminal justice system. With that in mind, here is a brief overview of the federal and state criminal appeals courts.
If you are charged with a state crime, you are tried in the Circuit Court for the county where the crime allegedly occurred. Upon conviction, a defendant has the right to file an appeal with one of five Florida District Courts of Appeal. Each of the five courts covers a different geographic area within the state. If you are appealing a conviction from Hillsborough County (Tampa) Circuit Court, you would file your appeal with the Second District Court of Appeal.
An appeal to the District Court following conviction is “by right.” This means the District Court must consider your appeal. If the District Court rejects your appeal, then you may seek discretionary review from the Florida Supreme Court.
Discretionary review is just what it sounds like–the Supreme Court has the discretion to hear an appeal, but it is not obligated to take the case. There are some exceptions to this rule–the Supreme Court must hear direct appeals of death sentences in capital cases, for instances–but generally speaking, most appeals are resolved at the District Court level. Typically, the Florida Supreme Court will only accept a non-capital criminal appeal if it is necessary to resolve conflicting interpretations of the law among the District Courts.
Like Florida, the federal judicial system has three tiers, but the nomenclature is reversed. Here, the trial courts are the District Courts, while the appellate courts are the Circuit Courts. Florida is subdivided into three federal District Courts, all of which are within the jurisdiction of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is based in Atlanta.
As with state criminal cases, if you are convicted of a crime in a federal District Court, you have an appeal “by right” to the 11th Circuit. Beyond that, the United States Supreme Court has discretionary review power. The Supreme Court never hears direct criminal appeals; instead, it usually only grants review to resolve conflicts among the circuit courts.
Federal Habeas Review
There is a third type of “appeal” worth mentioning and that is habeas review. A person who is in the custody of the state–i.e., a prisoner convicted of a crime–can petition a federal court for a writ of habeas corpus. This is basically an order requiring the person holding the prisoner to release them from custody.
Habeas relief may be granted when a federal court determines a state court proceeding has violated the constitutional rights of the prisoner. Technically, a habeas petition is not an appeal. The prisoner must first exhaust the normal appeals process of the applicable state court system. But once that appeals process is concluded, they have one year to ask for habeas relief in federal court. Normally, a prisoner only gets one shot at a habeas petition, and they are not typically granted.
Speak with a Florida Criminal Appeals Lawyer Today
If you would like to know more about the process of appealing a criminal conviction and would like to speak with an experienced Tampa criminal defense lawyer, contact the Faulkner Law Group, PLLC, today to schedule a consultation.