what is a criminal appeal? 

At Vargas Law Firm, we believe in the fundamental right of every individual to a fair and just legal process. A cornerstone of this belief is the right to appeal a criminal conviction. Understanding what constitutes a criminal appeal, the processes involved, and how it differs from a trial is crucial for those seeking to challenge a conviction or sentence. This page aims to demystify the appeals process, providing you with essential knowledge and guiding you on how Vargas Law Firm can assist in navigating these challenging waters.

Definition of a Criminal Appeal

A criminal appeal is a legal procedure that allows someone convicted of a crime to request a review of their case by a higher court. Unlike a trial, which focuses on facts, evidence, and witness testimony to determine guilt or innocence, an appeal focuses solely on legal arguments. It examines whether legal errors made during the trial process impacted the verdict or sentencing. The goal of an appeal is not to re-try the case but to ensure the law was applied correctly and fairly.

Grounds for an Appeal

The grounds for a criminal appeal are typically based on questions of law, not questions of fact. Some common grounds include:

  • Procedural errors: Mistakes in how the law was applied during the trial.
  • Evidentiary issues: Improper admission or exclusion of evidence.
  • Legal misinterpretation: Incorrect interpretation or application of the law by the trial judge.
  • Ineffective assistance of counsel: Representation by a lawyer that falls below an acceptable standard and adversely affects the outcome.

The Appeals Process

  1. Notice of Appeal: The first step is filing a notice of appeal with the court, a formal statement of intent to seek a review, typically within a strict timeframe following the conviction or sentencing.

  2. Preparation of the Record: The trial court’s clerk prepares a record of everything that happened during the trial, including all documents, evidence, and transcripts of proceedings.

  3. Writing and Filing Briefs: Both sides submit briefs to the appellate court. The appellant's (the person appealing) brief outlines the alleged legal errors and argues why the conviction or sentence should be overturned. The appellee's (usually the state) brief argues why the trial court’s decision should stand.

  4. Oral Arguments: In some cases, the appellate court may request oral arguments from both sides, providing an opportunity to further emphasize key points from the briefs.

  5. Decision: The appellate court will either affirm the original decision, reverse it (possibly ordering a new trial), or remand the case back to the lower court for further action consistent with the appellate court's findings.

How Vargas Law Firm Can Help

Navigating the complexities of an appeal requires expertise in appellate law and a strategic approach to legal argumentation. At Vargas Law Firm, our experienced appellate attorneys:

  • Conduct a thorough review of your trial record to identify viable grounds for appeal.
  • Craft persuasive appellate briefs that clearly articulate legal errors and their impact on your case.
  • Present compelling oral arguments when necessary.
  • Guide you through each step of the appeals process, ensuring you understand your rights and options.


A criminal appeal is a critical legal tool for challenging unjust convictions and sentences. It serves as a vital check on the legal process, ensuring that every individual receives a fair trial in accordance with the law. At Vargas Law Firm, we are committed to pursuing justice for our clients through diligent appellate advocacy.

If you or a loved one are considering a criminal appeal, contact us today to discuss how we can support your pursuit of justice through the appeals process.