Have you ever noticed how much Americans like to talk about our legal system and our government? Whenever we read a story about a country with an unjust legal system, we always seem to take a moment to be thankful for our own system. It certainly is impressive that the whole system is founded on the same principles that the very first U.S. government created. And one of the most important principles is something that often gets overlooked — and that’s the appeals process that American citizens are allowed.
It isn’t always well-known among Americans, but each citizen has the right to file for an appeal if they are convicted of a crime and believe that a legal error has occurred; there are countless numbers of state and federal appeals attorneys who have dedicated their careers to providing these people with the fair trials that they deserve. It’s all part of the “innocent until proven guilty” mantra that makes our legal system so different from the systems of others countries, and it ensures that we do not punish innocent people for crimes that they did not commit.
When someone files for an appeal, they usually first seek advisement from a legal attorney who works for a criminal defense law firm — usually a firm that specializes in the appeals process. The actual appeal itself is a request made to a higher court of law to examine the case and decide if a legal error — something like a misinterpretation of a law or negative press that may have influenced the jury — is to blame for the judge’s conviction. The appeal can focus on just the trial, just the sentence imposed, or both, and it usually has to be filed within 90 days of the court decision.
With over 10,000 individual cases being filed every term in U.S. Courts of Appeals, it’s not hard to imagine that the top appeal attorneys are kept so busy. Some people claim that the appeals process — which can take a fairly long time — is a weak part of the legal system, simply because it puts so many other important cases on waiting lists. But one thing is certain: the appeals process, and the legal attorneys who make it possible, ensure that every American receives the fairest trial and sentencing possible.