What You Need to Know About Felony Conviction Appeals
Felonies are the most severe type of crime in Arizona. These serious criminal offenses are generally punishable by more than one year of prison. They may also carry higher fines than petty offenses and misdemeanors. Felony crimes in Arizona range from arson and burglary to drug trafficking and murder.
If you were convicted of a felony in Arizona, you may believe that you have no further recourse available to you. In reality, you have the legal right to appeal the court’s ruling. The criminal appeals process in Arizona allows individuals who have been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony crime to appeal on the grounds that the guilty verdict was unjust.
What Is an Appeal in Arizona?
An appeal is an official request for an Arizona court to review a defendant’s conviction and sentencing. This review is completed by a higher court of law than the court that made the original judgment. In Arizona, this could be the Arizona Supreme Court or the intermediate appellate court. The former consists of a panel of five judges, while the latter is a panel of three judges.
It is important to understand that an appeal is not a new trial or re-sentencing but rather a review of the proceedings that occurred in the lower court. If a defendant makes an appeal and it is discovered that the lower court made a mistake that was significant enough to warrant rectification, the defendant may be granted a new trial or re-sentencing that would take place once again in the lower court.
What Might Be Grounds for Appeal in Arizona?
There are several reasons why a person convicted of a felony in Arizona may choose to appeal. This includes:
- Dissatisfaction with the original trial attorney’s perceived inadequacy.
- The discovery of new evidence that was not available during the original trial that proves your innocence.
- You believe that the trial was not properly handled by the judge, prosecution, and/or jury, or that proper legal procedures were not followed.
What Is the Arizona Appeals Process?
In Arizona, there are three primary ways that a person convicted of a felony can make an appeal in a criminal case.
1. Direct Appeal
A direct appeal must be filed by the defendant within 20 days of receiving the sentence. While the appeal is pending, which could take months or even years, the defendant will most likely remain in jail or prison.
The Attorney General is given a brief that presents the defendant’s argument that the conviction was unwarranted or erroneous. After reviewing the information, the Attorney General’s office will file a response in which the defense can file a reply. The case will then go to the Arizona Supreme Court or Court of Appeals where a panel will determine if the original sentence remains or should be reversed.
2. Post-Conviction Relief Petition
Another option for filing an appeal in Arizona is the filing of a post-conviction relief petition (PCR). This type of appeal should be filed in the original Arizona court and is generally reviewed by the trial judge who handed down the original sentence.
Similar to a direct appeal, an argument is made and the court decides to retain the sentence or request a reversal. In some instances, an evidentiary hearing will be scheduled in which witnesses are allowed to provide testimony. If the defendant is in court, he or she may request to make an impact statement.
3. Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus
The final method of filing an appeal in Arizona in a criminal case is the filing of a petition for writ of habeas corpus. This type of appeal cannot be filed unless all other appeal methods have been attempted. Petitions for writ of habeas corpus are only available for federal appeals and are used to determine if there was a sufficient reason for the defendant’s original sentencing.
Petitions for writ of habeas corpus have the primary purpose of protecting a person’s freedom against lawless or arbitrary state action. It also confirms that the process used to detain the convicted individual was legal, correct, and reasonable.
Can You Appeal a Felony Conviction Years Later?
How long a person has to file an appeal after receiving a criminal conviction will depend on several factors, such as the type of appeal and the unique circumstances of the case. Ideally, you should file an appeal as soon as possible after receiving your sentence or you may lose your right to appellate review.
Arizona has strict timelines in place that require appeals to be filed within a certain amount of time. In the lower courts, this could be as little as 14 days from the date of the conviction. For convictions in Superior Court, the deadline to file an appeal is generally 20 days from the date of the conviction.
Due to these stringent deadlines, it’s important to act fast after receiving a judgment from the court. Working with an experienced criminal law attorney can help ensure that your appeal is filed correctly and by the specified deadline. If you are unable to file an
appeal due to the deadline passing, your attorney can advise you as to your alternative legal options for challenging your sentence or conviction.
Are All Types of Convictions Eligible for Appeal?
There are some types of convictions that are not eligible for appeal in Arizona. This most commonly includes cases where the defendants were convicted as a result of plea agreements. A standard hallmark of a plea agreement is that the defendant agrees to waive his or her right to an appeal. However, defendants who are convicted as part of a plea agreement can file a petition for post-conviction relief.
Discuss Your Case with an Arizona Criminal Law Team
If you’ve been convicted of a felony in Arizona, you may be wondering about the appeals process and how best to proceed with your case. Working with a reputable criminal law attorney is your best path toward possibly being granted a new trial or re-sentencing. Reach out to the dedicated team of criminal law experts at JacksonWhite Law at (480) 467-4370 and schedule a free consultation today.