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What happens during an appeal?

If you have a criminal conviction, you may be able to appeal. Appealing your case means that you seek the opinion of a higher court to overturn or change the outcome of your original case.

One thing to note about appealing a case is it does not give you a new trial. You will not be able to present your case in full or provide new evidence. The appeals process is only to check for legal errors in the first trial.

Legal error

When you appeal, it is important that you have some grounds upon which to do so. You need to be able to prove some legal issue occurred with your first trial. You cannot claim new evidence or appeal simply because you did not like the way your first trial ended. In some cases, you automatically receive an appeal, but even then, you need to have something for the higher court to review. Note that a higher court does not always have to hear your case unless the law mandates it, which is typically in death penalty cases.


If you appeal and win your appeal, there are a few different outcomes possible. The higher court may send it back for a new trial. It is then up to the prosecution to decide if they wish to retry the case. If the prosecutor decides not to, then your legal issues are over, and your conviction is vacated. Another potential outcome is the higher court sends you back to the lower court for resentencing. You will not get another trial, but the court will redo the sentencing. The higher court may also decide everything was fine with your first trial and uphold the court’s decision, which means nothing changes for you.

Whatever happens on appeal, if you have a solid reason to seek help from a higher court, then you should exercise that right.