The Number of Criminal Appeals

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

The final judgment of a lower court, usually the trial court, generally can be appealed to the next higher court only once. Thus, the total number of appeals depends on how many courts are "superior" to the court that made the contested decision, and sometimes what the next higher court decides will be the appeal's basis. Remember, the first appeal is known as an "appeal as of right," and you are entitled to the assistance of an attorney.

In states with large populations, it's common to find three or even four levels of courts, while in less populous states there may be only two. There are important differences in the rules, time limits, costs, and procedures depending on whether the case is in Federal or state court. Also, each state has different rules. Finally, even within a single state one may find that different rules for appeals depend on the court in which the case originated.

Below, you'll find more relevant information about how many times you can appeal a conviction to which you are entitled and steps for doing so. Keep in mind, the appeals process is state-specific, although there are similarities among the states.

Steps in Filing Your (Timely) Appeal: File the Notice of Appeal

The filing process involves two important actions: filing the "notice of appeal" and then finally the actual appellate brief with the court. First, let's talk about filing a notice of appeal, which simply informs the court that you're appealing your case. Your attorney sends the it to the court that entered the judgment against you. The notice of appeal is a short document, usually not more than a page or two long.

An appellate court can't adjudicate a case if the notice isn't properly filed in a timely manner. The notice must be filed within a definite time, usually 30 days in civil appeals and 10 days in criminal appeals. The period within which to file usually starts on the date a final judgment in the lower court is filed.

File the Appeal

The next big step in the appeals process is to actually file your appellate brief with the court. The appellate brief will usually be a lengthy document written by your attorney. It will state all the reasons why the lower court's ruling was wrong, and also cite to the trial transcript as evidence of the error.

Additional Resources

If you find that you still have questions about how many times you can appeal a conviction after reading this article, check out the links below to conduct your own research:

Get Legal Help with Your Criminal Appeal

While you're entitled to appeal the judgment in your case, failing to do so in the right way and at the right time can determine whether your appeal will actually be heard. Just how many times you can appeal a conviction depends on the details of your case. Contact an experienced litigation and appeals lawyer near you to help guide you through to the appeals process and file any necessary paperwork on your behalf.

Next Steps

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