How Do Appeals Work?
An appeal is a legal action or remedy which starts after a judgment is
made in trial court (e.g. district court and superior court). A direct
appeal is the primary type of post-conviction remedy available to a defendant/litigant.
Appeals can be heard in the Appeals Court and by the Supreme Judicial
Court as well.
Grounds for appeal may include the following:
- Whether there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction
- Challenges to incorrect jury instructions
- Improper admission or exclusion of evidence
- Improper closing argument by the Commonwealth’s attorney
- Incorrect rulings on pre-trail motions
In the case of a guilty plea in a criminal matter, however, there is no
right to appeal. Instead, someone who pleaded guilty can pursue a post-conviction
remedy in the same trial court itself according to Massachusetts Rules
of Criminal Procedure.
Notice of Appeal
The process begins after judgment by filing a notice of appeal in the court
which rendered the judgment. In general, an individual has 30 days from
the judgment to file this notice as a matter of right. As soon as the
notice is filed, the right to appeal is now preserved.
However, if the 30-day deadline to file the notice of appeal is missed,
but you are less than 60 days out from the judgment, you are able to file
the notice of appeal in the trial court and a motion to late-file the
notice of appeal. You must show good cause for why the court should allow
the late filing.
If 60 days have passed since your judgment, then you must file the notice
of appeal with the Appeals Court, along with a motion to late-file the
notice of appeal and, once again, show good cause for why the deadline
It is important to understand that no court in Massachusetts has jurisdiction
to hear an appeal that is passed one year from the judgment. If that is
the case, your appellate rights may be permanently lost. Call to discuss today.
Appellate Process for Direct Appeals
When the case is accepted by the court, the next important stage of the
appeal is the writing of the appellate brief. This document contains details
of all the facts involved in the case, an analysis of the legal issues
raised and an argument in support of the position taken by the party who
submits the said brief.
The appellant files the initial brief, those opposing the appeal files
a responding briefly and then the appellant, if required, can file a short
reply. When all briefs have been filed, the appellate court may schedule
a court date to hear an oral argument.
If you are interested in pursuing an appeal in Massachusetts, contact South
Shore Criminal Defense today to speak with our criminal defense attorneys
about your case.