Appealing Your Criminal Conviction to the DC Court of Appeals

If you or someone you know has been convicted of a criminal offense in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, you might consider appealing that conviction to DC’s appellate court.  Here is an overview of the steps in that process:

The first step is fling a Notice of Appeal in the Superior Court within thirty days of your conviction.  After the notice is filed, the clerk of the Superior Court will compile the Appellate Record – the trial court records of the case proceedings – and transmit it to the Court of Appeals.

While the Appellate Record is being compiled, the court reporter who worked your case will produce a Official Transcript of the proceedings.  It will be sent to the Court of Appeals as well.

Once the Court of Appeals receives the record and the transcript, it will set a deadline for your attorney to file the Opening Brief.  The opening brief is a document which explains to the Court the reasons why your conviction should be reversed.  Typically, the opening brief will raise legal errors which your trial judge made.  Common sources of legal error include: decisions to admit or exclude evidence; jury instructions; denials of a motion for judgment of acquittal; or other legal rulings by the judge.

The government (represented by the US Attorney’s Office or Office of the Attorney General, depending on the type of case) will then file a Response Brief, arguing in support of the challenged decisions by the trial court.  Your attorney will then be able to file a Reply Brief, responding to the government’s arguments.

In many cases, the Court will then set a date for Oral Argument.  At this oral argument, a three judge panel of the Court will hear argument from counsel for both sides about the issues presented in the case.

Finally, the Court will issue an Order or Opinion deciding the case.  Hopefully, the Court has been persuaded by your counsel’s arguments and will reverse your conviction, or grant the other relief you are seeking.

Make no mistake – even with first rate representation appeals are tough to win.  However, the Court of Appeals can and will reverse in a case where serious legal errors have been committed.

If you have other questions about appealing your DC Superior Court conviction to the DC Court of Appeals, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.