The most common way to challenge a conviction is by taking an appeal to a higher court, but it is not the only way. Georgia and federal law provide several means of challenging convictions and sentences, some of which may work together. Not every means of challenging a conviction or sentence is available in every case, however, and the timeline for each one is different.
At The Bullard Firm, we help clients challenge their criminal convictions on appeal and beyond. Whether we seek to reverse your conviction in the appellate court, pursue a withdrawal of your guilty plea, or move to modify your sentence, you can count on our experience to navigate the complexities of the appellate process.
Georgia law allows you to appeal directly to higher court from most final judgments in criminal prosecutions. Generally, appeals must be taken within 30 days of the trial court’s final judgment having been entered.
If you were convicted at trial, Georgia law allows you to move for a new trial within 30 days of the final judgment having been entered. A motion for a new trial Is the typical procedure in Georgia for challenging that your trial lawyer failed to provide effective assistance of counsel. If the trial court overrules your motion for a new trial, you can take an appeal within 30 days of that judgment.
If you pleaded guilty in a Georgia court, you may move to withdraw your plea during the same term of court when it was entered. The terms of court are different for each county in Georgia, so a motion to withdraw a guilty plea should usually be filed quickly, if at all.
Within one year of your having been sentenced or 120 days after the judgment on your appeal (whichever is later), you may move the trial court to reduce your sentence.
Federal law allows you to take an appeal to a Circuit Court of Appeals within 14 days of the district court’s final judgment having been entered in a criminal prosecution.
If you were convicted at trial, you may move for a new trial in the district court on any ground within 14 days of the final judgment having been entered (or within three years on the ground of newly discovered evidence). If the district court overrules your motion for a new trial, you may still take an appeal to the Circuit Court within 14 days.
You may move the district court to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence that is unlawful or was unlawfully imposed under the Constitution or laws of the United States. This motion substitutes in most cases for a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Usually, you must file a motion attacking your federal sentence within one year of the sentence having become final. When a sentence becomes final depends on the steps you took to appeal it, if any. Also, some circumstances may extend the time for filing a motion attacking your federal sentence.
You may move the district court to release you from or reduce your federal prison sentence, if there are extraordinary and compelling reasons to do so and if the Federal Bureau of Prisons fails to make such a motion on your behalf.
As with any legal process, there are risks to challenging a conviction. In some cases, challenging a conviction may not be in your best interests because your circumstances may get worse if you win. This is less often the case if you were convicted after a trial. In most cases, challenging a conviction imposed after a trial will either improve your circumstances or leave them unchanged. But it is more often the case if you plead guilty.
Guilty pleas, especially negotiated guilty pleas, typically represent a better outcome than someone could have expected had they been convicted at trial. In negotiating, the prosecution gives up some of what it could have expected to convict the person for in exchange for the person giving up certain rights, including his right to a jury trial
If you successfully challenge your guilty plea, everything the prosecution gave up may be back on the table. So you may end up with a more severe punishment after a trial than had you let your original plea stand. Whether challenging your plea is in your best interests depends on the circumstances of your case, and we will always discuss with you what you can expect if you win or lose.
Appellate practice is different from trial practice. A trial is about whether the prosecution can prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But an appeal is about whether you can prove that someone—the judge, a juror, the prosecutor, or even your lawyer—broke the rules at trial. The arguments that an appellate lawyer makes are fundamentally different, therefore, from those that a trial lawyer makes. A trial argument in an appellate court will lose every time.
What’s more, most people only get one chance to appeal. And the timeline to protect your right to appeal is short (30 days for most appeals in Georgia courts, 14 days for most appeals in federal court). If your lawyer doesn’t file the right document in the right court at the right time, you can lose your chance to appeal.
You need a lawyer who has the right tools for the job and who knows how to use them. Criminal appeals are all we do. Our firm specializes in helping you to make your best case in the appellate court. If you only have one chance at an appeal, shouldn’t you make sure it’s done right?
Contact The Bullard Firm to discuss your case.