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Types of Appeals

In state courts, many matters decided in the General District Court may be appealled to the Circuit Court. This appeal results in a trial de novo -- a new trial with a clean slate. This type of appeal should be distinguished from an appeal of a ruling of the Circuit Court. The majority of the information below pertains to appeals from the Circuit Court.

Many Rules

Many appeals have a reasonable chance of success, but only a few appeals are actually successful. There are many important rules that must be followed and deadlines that must be met, and your rights can easily be trampled if an attorney is not experienced and is not prepared to the job correctly, the first time.

Purpose of an Appeal

Much confusion exists as to what can and cannot be accomplished on appeal. An appeal is an opportunity to challenge the rulings of the trial court. It is not an opportunity to present additional evidence. Furthermore, an issue on appeal must be addressed at trial or the argument usually cannot prevail on appeal.

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Criminal Appeals:

Every criminal defendant convicted in the Circuit Court has a right to file a Petition for Appeal in both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Even if the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction, you could lose your appeal if your trial attorney fails to make the specific legal argument at the appropriate time. Accordingly, if you are convicted, you should evaluate your potential appellate issues and take the necessary steps to preserve certain issues for appeal (provided that it is not too late).

Success on appeal can come in the form of winning a new trial or new sentencing hearing, or, depending upon the case, even a complete dismissal of the charges.

For information about seeking a delayed appeal, click here: Delayed Appeals and Habeas

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Civil Appeals:

Winning a case at trial is often not the end of the process. Conversely, a loss at trial does not necessarily end the cause of action. In either event, erroneous rulings by the trial court, improper actions by a judge or jury, or a verdict without evidence to support it may be challenged on appeal.

Decisions in some areas of the law have appeals that are granted and considered on the merits as a matter of right. Other types of appeals must be filed in the form of a petition that requests that the appellate court consider the matter on the merits. In either event, a working knowledge of the appellate process is paramount to preserving your rights, and you should make sure that the attorney you are considering is familiar with that process.

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If you have any questions or if you wish to discuss your case with us, please make use of our help page. Initial consultations are free of charge. We would be happy to meet with you.

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David B. Hargett and W. Todd Watson are attorneys licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Virginia.