When many people think of appeals in criminal cases in Texas, their minds go straight to death row cases – and for good reason. Death row appeals tend to attract media attention, especially they involve the reversal of conviction based on some issue like ineffective assistance of counsel during the trial proceedings.
Death row cases aren’t the only cases that can be appealed in Texas, though. In fact, if you find yourself facing an unfavorable judgment or ruling, then you can appeal the decision too.
Here’s what you need to know about the different levels of appeals through the Texas court system and how the appeals process works.
The Appeals Courts Structure in Texas
In Texas, when a business, person, or other party loses a criminal or civil case through a trial ruled on by either a judge or jury, they have to make an appeal to the Texas Court of Appeals in the particular area their case was originally tried.
Here’s the structure of the courts in Texas:
Texas Court of Appeals
The state of Texas is divided into 14 different districts. Each district has its own Court of Appeals. In small districts, these courts have three judges while the larger districts have six justices that sit on the Court of Appeals.
Criminal Court of Appeals of Texas and Supreme Court of Texas
If you want to appeal higher than the Texas Court of Appeals, then you must next go to a higher court depending on the kind of case you’re appealing. For juvenile and civil cases, the Supreme Court of Texas, made up of nine justices, hears the appeal.
If the matter is a criminal case, then the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, also made up of nine justices, hears the appeal.
These two courts are the highest you can appeal to in the state. So, if an appeal is lost before one of these courts, then the options to appeal on the state level have been exhausted.
The only thing left to do is appeal to a federal court, but that can only be done in cases with federal constitutional claims.
How to Appeal a Case
The procedural steps needed to file an appeal are complicated, which is why an experienced attorney is a must-have when in the appeals process.
An attorney will know which court you must appeal to – because you can only go higher than the court you were convicted in until you exhaust your appeal options. The tools used to pursue an appeal include:
Notice of Appeal
A notice of appeal is filed by a lawyer at trial before they even leave the courtroom in many cases, ensuring the rights of the defendant. In criminal cases, the defendant signs a notice of appeal, or an attorney can sign one on their behalf.
If not filed at the conclusion of the trial, then the notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the signing of the judgment. Failure to abide by this timeline will end the right to file an appeal.
Motion for a New Trial
You also have the option to file a motion for a new trial. In both civil and criminal appeals, motion for a new trial extends to the deadline to file a notice of appeal to 90 days from the date of sentence or imposing of the judgment.
What a motion for a new trial does is allow the party that lost the trial to present new evidence or show evidence of an error, such as ineffective assistance of counsel or juror misconduct.
An appeal can be a difficult process to go through and one where experience navigating the legal system is essential. Failure to follow all procedures exactly can result in you losing your right to appeal the verdict of your trial.