Understanding Criminal Procedure and Criminal Appeals in Virginia

It's best not to navigate the criminal justice system on your own. At McGlone Law Firm, Fairfax Freedom Fighters, our criminal defense lawyer in Fairfax will explain what your options are if you are found guilty and subsequently sentenced. If an appeal is appropriate, we will discuss with you exactly what that may involve. It can be costly to appeal, so you always want to start your criminal defense off right by hiring a criminal defense lawyer who will fight to uphold your rights and seek the best outcome. Call us today at 7032732750 to schedule a Free Consultation/Quote if you have been arrested and charged with a crime or if you have been found guilty and want to appeal.

What is a Misdemeanor/DUI Criminal Appeal?

One of the best things about Virginia's General District Court is that almost everything has a right of appeal de novo to the Circuit Court.  We emphasize that the very best place to win, or otherwise get a great result in a misdemeanor case such as DUI or Reckless Driving is the General District Court.

However, any time the outcome is not as good as hoped/expected, you do have the absolute right to appeal for a new trial in the Circuit Court.  In a Virginia Misdemeanor Appeal, the case will have a new Judge upstairs, typically with a different prosecutor and a decidedely different environment.  This doesn't always sow the seeds for improvement, but often with an experienced attorney, we can find the path to success on a Misdemeanor Appeal.  

During a criminal appeal, the defendant asks a higher (appellate) court to review and either reverse or modify a lower (trial) court's decision. The party appealing the trial court's decision is the appellant (some jurisdictions prefer to use petitioner). The other party is referred to as the appellee (some jurisdictions prefer to use respondent).

When a defendant is found guilty after a trial, they have a right to appeal the verdict. The prosecution, on the other hand, cannot appeal an acquittal. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits double jeopardy, which means you cannot be tried twice for the same criminal allegation. Both the prosecution and the defense, however, can appeal a defendant's sentence as well as any interim decisions made by a judge, like the admissibility of certain evidence. 

Appellate courts are concerned with legal errors. They do not hear evidence or make findings of fact as to whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. An appellate court examines a trial for any potential errors in terms of procedure, the law that was applied, and how it was applied.

The appellant files a notice of appeal, and upon the filing of this notice, the clock starts ticking for the appellant to file a brief. The brief states the facts and the law, explaining why the trial court's decision must be reversed. The appellee has an opportunity to respond with an answering brief. Then, the appellant may respond with a second brief that answers the appellee's brief.

The appellate court may make a decision based on the written briefs, or they may hear oral arguments.

Grounds for a Criminal Appeal in Virginia

The specific grounds of an appeal will vary from case to case. Ultimately, an appellant must show that the lower court made a substantial or material error during the trial, i.e., one that affected the outcome of the trial. A harmless error, even if an error, will not change the outcome of the lower court's decision.

The most common grounds given for a criminal appeal in Virginia include but are not limited to sentencing errors, the serious error of law, abuse of discretion, ineffective counsel, improper jury conduct, and prosecutorial misconduct.

Possible Outcomes of a Criminal Appeal in Virginia

After considering an appeal, an appellate court's decision may be one of many. The appellate court may:

  • Affirm the trial court's decision and uphold the conviction and sentence 
  • Reverse, or overrule, the trial court's decision
  • Remand, or return, the case to the trial court for a full retrial, resentence, or reconsideration of a specific aspect of the trial based on the appellate court's finding
  • Modify a sentence

An appellate court can also dismiss an appeal on procedural issues, such as a lack of jurisdiction. 

Contact a Criminal/DUI Misdemeanor Appeals Lawyer in Fairfax Today

Criminal appeals involve a highly specialized area of law that has the potential to significantly alter the outcome of the trial court's decision. So, if you are considering appealing the outcome of your criminal trial, it's worth speaking to a criminal appeals attorney in Fairfax.

At McGlone Law Firm, Fairfax Freedom Fighters, our criminal appeals attorney has the skill and resources to help you file a timely appeal and strategically argue your case. Not only can we provide you with expert advice, but we will also review your trial with fresh eyes to identify all potential grounds for appeal. Contact us today either by filling out the online form or calling us at 7032732750 to schedule a Free Consultation/Quote.

Our Mission

Our Mission is to get the best possible result for each client, while including the client in the decision-making process along the way.  Every case is different, so we strive to gain detailed knowledge of the special facts and then find all of the relevant law to help get the best result either at trial or by negotiation.

Areas We Serve

Our Office is located at Fairfax Courthouse.   The Courthouse and Jail are right outside my window and you can’t park any closer than our office.  We focus on defense of DUI, traffic, and other misdemeanor and drug charges.

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