The criminal appeals process

For many Tennessee residents, the process of appealing a court ruling is a bit unclear. In order for an appellate court to consider an appeal, there must be demonstrable evidence indicating that a grievous error was made during the trial, one that had a large effect on the final outcome. Otherwise, even if the aggrieved does prove that an error did happen, the appellate court will consider it a harmless error.

With that said, people can appeal their case based on four basic grounds. To start with, proving that the lower court committed a serious error, one that violates the defendant's substantial rights somehow, can form the basis for an appeal and may result in overturning a court ruling. For instance, should a judge miscalculate a sentence, then the defendant can appeal their case. Another case where a defendant can appeal is when the evidence itself had insufficient weight. However, this can be harder to prove since the appellate course rarely takes the time to hear the testimony of the witnesses or look at the presentation of the evidence. Fortunately, DNA evidence has been changing this.

A third possibility is when the defendant can prove that the court abused its discretion and made a decision that was clearly unreasonable and not backed up by the facts of the case. This is all the more applicable in cases where the judge is given a wide range of discretion. On the other hand, the final basis is when a defendant's Sixth Amendment rights, the right to adequate representation and the right to a fair trial, have been infringed upon by receiving ineffective assistance from their lawyer.

Obviously, some cases will have a better chance of getting an appeal than others. As a result, people who believe that they have been aggrieved by the court in one way or another might benefit from reaching out to an appeals lawyer. Legal counsel could outline a client's available options.

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Patrick T. McNally, Attorney at Law
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Fifth Third Center, Suite 2260
Nashville, TN 37219

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