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How Do You Appeal A Criminal Case?

graphics-882726_640-300x207There are a number of different ways to appeal or modify a criminal case in Maryland, and the rights of a defendant depend on where the case took place and whether it ended in a plea or a trial. All defendants with cases heard in the District Court of Maryland have an absolute right to appeal the outcome within 30 days to the circuit court. This includes criminal cases, traffic citations, peace orders, protective orders and civil cases. The appeal must be filed in writing with the district court clerk, and if the 30th day falls on a weekend or holiday the next business day is the final day. District court cases that are appealed will be assigned a new case number in the circuit court, and start over form scratch, which is called a de novo appeal. The circuit court judge will not (or is not supposed to) place any weight on the verdict or judgment from the district court in making his or her rulings.

The amount of time it takes for an appeal to be scheduled in circuit court depends on the jurisdiction. It can be as little as a few weeks in some, and a few months in others. During the time between the appeal and the new circuit court date a defendant who was placed on probation is still required to report as directed. If jail time was a part of the sentence, the defendant may still be required to serve unless the sentence is stayed or the defendant posts an appeal bond. The one exception to the automatic appeal rule is cases where probation before judgment is granted and accepted. Defendants who receive PBJ in any case waive their right to appeal to the circuit court, and their case is effectively over once the sentence is announced. The right to an automatic circuit court appeal is the same regardless of whether the case went to trial or the defendant took a plea.

Appealing a Maryland circuit court case is an entirely different animal, and the defendant’s rights depend on whether the case ended in a plea or a trial. A defendant who is found guilty after trial has an automatic right to appeal to the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis, which is the state’s intermediate appellate court. The notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days at the circuit court clerk’s office, but the actual appellate brief will be filed several months down the road. In order to write an appellate brief the attorney will review transcripts of the entire trial, and then pick out any issues that may have been reversible error. In criminal cases where the defendant pled guilty he or she will not have an automatic right to appeal, but will actually have to ask for permission or leave to appeal from the court. Receiving leave to appeal is very rare, and in most cases will be denied. This should be something to consider when deciding to accept or reject a plea offer.

In addition to appealing a case, there are also motions that can be filed to change or modify the sentence handed down by the trial judge. The main method to do this is through a motion to modify sentence, which must be filed in writing within 90 days. Motions to modify can be used to reduce jail sentences, shorten probation or convert it to unsupervised or to change a conviction to a PBJ. Typically when a defendant asks for a PBJ in a modification it will be held sub curia, which means held in abeyance until a later date. Motions to modify for PBJ are typically ruled on after the defendant has successfully completed all or a good portion of probation. If a lawyer has filed a motion to modify it is especially important to avoid any probation violations, as even a technical violation could result in the motion to modify being denied.

There are other less common appeal motions such as filing for a 3-judge panel sentence review, but these motions are tricky and must be handled with care. A review by a 3-judge panel can actually result in a stiffer sentence that cannot be reversed back to the original sentence. If you have recently been found guilty or pled guilty in any Maryland criminal or civil case contact Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation. He can examine your situation at no cost to you, and then explain how you may be entitled to a new trial or a PBJ. Benjamin specializes in district court appeals, and will fight to achieve a better outcome for you in circuit court. Benjamin handles domestic violence cases, gun and drug offenses, traffic crimes such as DUI, fleeing and eluding and driving on a suspended license, and felonies such as robbery and burglary. Call 410-207-2598 anytime for a free consultation.