A defendant convicted of a criminal offense has a constitutional right to representation on direct appeal. The Fourth District Court of Appeal, located in Palm Beach County, has jurisdiction over those convicted in circuit court. The 15th Judicial Circuit judges, acting in their appellate capacity, make up the appellate court for those convicted in county court. In few circumstances, a case may be directly appealed to the Supreme Court of Florida.
Our office represents clients with cases on direct appeal to the Fourth District Court of Appeal from the 15th, 17th, and 19th judicial circuits as well as cases on direct appeal to the circuit court. Qualified appellate attorneys also represent those sentenced to death on direct review to the Supreme Court of Florida.
If you wish to appeal your conviction or sentence, you must file a Notice of Appeal with the appellate court within 30 days from the date the judge imposed your sentence. Your trial attorney can file the necessary paperwork on your behalf. You should discuss pursuing an appeal with your trial attorney as soon as possible. In no event should you wait more than 30 days before contacting your attorney.
Once you file your Notice of Appeal, the official court reporter will transcribe the proceedings in your case. The court reporter will send an electronic transcript to the clerk. The clerk will send the transcript and the official record to the appellate court and the parties’ attorneys. Our office assigns an appellate attorney to the case once we have received these items from the clerk. This often occurs several months after you file your Notice of Appeal.
Once an appellate attorney is assigned to your case, they will contact you and write an initial brief on your behalf, presenting all legal issues in the appeal. Thereafter, the Attorney General’s Office or the State Attorney’s Office will have the opportunity to file a written answer brief.
Appellate cases are very different from trial cases. Three judges, rather than a judge and jury, will decide your case. An appeal is not a new trial. Your appellate attorney cannot present new evidence for the first time on appeal and must rely on the official record of the trial court proceedings. The appellate court decides only legal issues and will not reconsider the case facts or determine the credibility of witnesses. There are no court dates; all arguments are presented in the written briefs. It usually takes six to twelve months after the briefs are filed for the appellate court to decide the appeal.
A convicted defendant does not have a right to an appellate bond. However, for those who qualify, the trial judge may set a bond, depending on the circumstances. Motions for appellate bonds are usually filed by the trial attorney. The set bond amount is generally much higher than pre-trial bonds. If you post bond, you will remain out of custody until the direct appeal is final, unless you violate the conditions of your bond. If you lose your appeal, you will begin serving your sentence.