The Texas Criminal Appeals Process

In 2011, the Texas Board of Legal Specialization designated a new specialty area — Criminal Appellate Law. Adam Seidel was in the first group of 84 Texas lawyers and judges who were awarded board certification in this specialized area of law practice.

Adam Seidel's appellate experience includes oral arguments before the nine-member Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, and several state intermediate appellate courts, including the Dallas Court of Appeals. He has filed appeals in numerous jurisdictions, including the United States Supreme Court.

Mr. Seidel has successfully represented clients in a wide variety of post-conviction proceedings, including federal appeals.

What Do The Courts Of Appeal Decide?

An appeal is a request to a higher court to review a decision made following a completed trial or court proceeding. The Courts of Appeal can decide questions of law such as whether the trial judge applied the law correctly in a particular case.

The Courts of Appeal do not hear testimony or retry cases. Instead, an appeal from a trial court judgment is decided based on the record from the original trial or proceeding. Issues brought to a Court of Appeal for review commonly include claims such as an incorrect ruling on admissibility of evidence, incorrect application of a law or regulation, improper jury selection or instructions, and insufficient evidence to support the verdict. Ineffective assistance of trial counsel can be asserted in certain circumstances.

How Does The Appeal Process Work?

To begin the appeal process, a written notice of appeal must be timely filed. In criminal cases, transcripts of the underlying proceedings must be prepared by the official court reporter. All parties are notified once the trial record on appeal has been filed with the Court of Appeal. From the date the record was filed, the appealing party has a specified period of time within which to file an appeal brief. A "brief" is a written argument that an attorney prepares for the appellate court. It details the issues raised by the appellant, including challenges to trial court rulings or findings, and refers to applicable statutes and previous case decisions to support their position. The other side is then given an opportunity to file a responsive brief.

Once the briefs have been filed, the case is randomly assigned to a panel of justices. In some cases, an oral argument may be scheduled. Oral argument gives the attorneys for both sides a chance to argue their positions, and gives the appellate judges an opportunity to ask the attorneys questions concerning the legal issues raised.

Several weeks after oral argument, a member of the panel prepares and files an opinion, which is a written statement of the court's decision.

In state appeals, decisions of the Courts of Appeal can be subject to discretionary review by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin.

What Is A Writ?

In most modern American jurisdictions, a "writ" is an order from a higher court to a lower court or to a government official such as a prison warden. Defendants may seek several types of writs from appellate court judges directed at the trial court or at a lower appellate court.

Writs, like appeals, are complex and involve picky details. Certain deadlines and rules apply that are strictly enforced by appellate courts. Defendants facing situations where they may be entitled to relief via a writ should consult counsel.

The Difference Between A Writ And A Direct Appeal?

Writs usually are considered to be extraordinary remedies, meaning they are permitted only when the defendant has no other adequate remedy such as an appeal. In other words, a defendant may take a writ to contest a point that the defendant is not entitled to raise on direct appeal. As a general rule, this applies to issues that are not apparent in the record of the case itself (such as when an attorney fails to investigate a possible defense).

Potential Post-Conviction Remedies

Convicted defendants can take a number of steps to challenge guilty verdicts and/or to correct violations of constitutional rights, including motions, direct appeals and writs. A defendant who loses at one may go on to the next step, all the way down the list (up the legal chain) in a process that can take many years — especially for serious felonies.

As a general rule, defendants in state court cases usually must first have unsuccessfully sought relief through the available state remedies before they will be allowed to seek relief in federal courts. Because of the complexities of these proceedings and what is at stake, defendants should consult counsel to determine which remedies are available to them.

Could An Appeal Offer A Remedy?

Find out before it is too late. To explore whether appellate relief may be available, contact us by filling out a form on this website, or calling 214-528-3344 (Dallas) or 972-312-1212 (Plano) to schedule a consultation.