Were you arrested in Washington? You are certainly not alone. According to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, there were approximately 115,000 arrests made by local, state, and federal law enforcement officers in the state in 2021 alone. Of course, an arrest is not the same thing as a conviction. Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
That being said, judges and juries do make mistakes. A person may be convicted of a serious felony offense that they did not actually commit. Every defendant who has been convicted of a crime in Washington can appeal. In this blog post, our Washington criminal appeals attorney explains the key things that you should know about appealing a felony conviction.
You Have the Right to Appeal a Felony Criminal Conviction in Washington
First, it is important to emphasize that every defendant has the right to appeal a felony conviction in Washington. The criminal justice system has multiple stages. The simple reality is that courts sometimes make serious errors. An appeal is an opportunity to challenge an error and get justice. If you or your loved one was convicted of a serious felony offense and you believe that there was a major error, you should consult with a Washington appellate lawyer as soon as possible.
Appellate Law Tip: You need to act quickly. There are strict deadlines to initiate the appeals process in Washington State. A defendant convicted of a felony typically has 30 days from the date the final judgment is entered to submit a Notice of Appeal.
A Criminal Appeal is Not a Re-Trial: Know Your Grounds for Appeal
There is an all-too-common misconception that an appeal is essentially a re-trial. That is simply not the case. If you were convicted of a felony offense in Washington on unfair grounds or through an unjust process, you absolutely have the right to appeal—but it is imperative that you understand how the appellate law process actually works. An appeal in a felony criminal case is neither a retrial nor is it a new trial. It is not an opportunity to get a fresh start to raise your legal defense. Instead, a criminal appeal is a chance to challenge a material legal error or a serious procedural flaw. You must have valid grounds for appeal. Otherwise, your case is going nowhere. Some potential grounds for appealing a felony criminal conviction in Washington include:
- Evidentiary Errors: The vast majority of felony criminal appeals are based on questions about the evidence that was used to justify the conviction. Did the court admit evidence that was unreliable? Were you improperly denied access to evidence that could have established your innocence? If so, you may have a valid ground for appeal.
- Misapplication of Law: A criminal conviction can be appealed on the grounds that the court misapplied the law. This could be an issue in any type of felony criminal case—especially ones that are centered around unique or otherwise unusual issues involved in it. If the appellate court finds that the trial court misapplied the law, it could reverse or even vacate the conviction.
- Ineffective Assistance of Counsel: Did the criminal defense lawyer who represented you at trial make a fundamental error? Were you denied justice because of their mistake? If so, it is possible that you have an appeal on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel.
To successfully appeal a felony criminal conviction in Washington, you must present strong, well-supported grounds for why the verdict was unjust. A felony criminal appeal should always be handled by an experienced Washington criminal appellate law attorney. Notably, an appeal is largely done on paper. There are limited (if any) oral hearings, and the appeals court will closely review the trial record and the arguments raised in the appellate brief.
Understanding the Possible Outcomes of a Felony Criminal Appeal in Washington
What happens on successfully appealing a felony conviction in Washington? Will you or your loved one walk free? The short answer is “it depends”—a number of different outcomes are possible in a felony appeal, including:
- A reversal of the lower court’s conviction or sentence to re-apply the law; and
- Reversal of a lower court’s conviction and the order of a new trial.
If a new trial is ordered, the prosecution may or may not attempt to bring the case again. It is possible that the prosecution may drop the charges altogether if a felony criminal conviction is successfully appealed.
Call Our Washington Criminal Appellate Lawyer for Immediate Help
At The Appellate Law Firm, our Washington criminal appellate attorney has the skills, knowledge, and expertise to handle the full range of felony appeals. If you are preparing to appeal a felony criminal conviction, we are here as a legal resource. Call us now or send us a direct message for your strictly confidential initial consultation. We provide criminal appellate law representation throughout Washington, including in Seattle, Tacoma, Kent, Everett, Renton, Bellevue, Vancouver, and Spokane.