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The Difference Between a Direct Appeal and Post-Conviction Relief in Florida

In the event that someone is found guilty of a crime during a criminal trial, there can be an element of shock and disbelief, especially if the defendant feels as though the trial was unfair, or additional evidence that challenges their guilt was not available at the time of trial. The initial trial conviction isn't always final, and there are a couple ways that the case can be examined again.

Between a direct appeal and post-conviction relief motion, a criminal conviction can be challenged following the initial trial. However, it's important to note that these two types of situations mean different things and fall under different contexts in the realm of criminal justice.

Direct Appeal

A direct appeal of a criminal conviction means that the defendant must file a motion to appeal in a timely manner following an initial conviction, and if the appeal is accepted, an appellate court will review the decision of the lower court.

Cases from misdemeanors to death penalties can be appealed from circuit courts all the way to the Florida Supreme Court depending on the type of case.

For a direct appeal in the state of Florida, the defendant has 30 days to file a "Notice of Appeal" after a criminal conviction. This notice states that the defendant intends to pursue a review of the trial court proceedings in an appellate court. At this time, the defendant must have the appellate record prepared and file a brief based on the record. This record includes items such as transcripts, pleadings filed, copies of evidence exhibits, etc...

Issues in a direct appeal are limited to the events that happened in court during the initial trial. The appellate court is simply reviewing how the court decided the issues of the law, not necessarily the facts of the case. For instance, something like jury credibility would not be an appropriate challenge for a direct appeal. The focus is solely on the law in the case.

Post-Conviction Motions

A post-conviction motion is not a substitute for a direct appeal and is usually an action taken to correct an error that denied a defendant a fair trial. This type of motion is filed with the trial court and not the appellate court, usually after the defendant has lost on a direct appeal.

Post-conviction relief issues can cover items that may or may not have been clear in the initial trial. These issues may include new DNA evidence that challenges the guilt of the convicted, evidence of perjury, juror misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, or ineffective assistance of counsel, to name a few.

Additional examples of situations when post-conviction relief may be appropriate include:

  • The judgment violated state or federal laws.
  • A sentence was more severe than the law allows.
  • The court that oversaw the case did not have jurisdiction to impose judgment or sentencing.
  • The defendant's plea was entered involuntarily.
  • Newly discovered evidence

If a defendant is awarded post-conviction relief, he or she may be released from custody, granted a new trial, or receive a modification of the sentence. Post-conviction relief is governed by federal and state laws and therefore will vary by state.

In any case, when an appeal or a post-conviction relief motion should be filed, time is of the essence. It's important that anyone considering this type of criminal defense hire an attorney who is experienced in this type of law. A post-conviction relief lawyer must have a strong understanding of the processes associated with post-conviction relief proceedings.

References:

How do I file an Appeal? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.flclerks.com/?page=HDI_File_Appeal

P. (2009, December 17). The Difference Between a Direct Criminal Appeal and a Post-Conviction Motion in Florida. Retrieved from https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/the-difference-between-a-direct-criminal-appeal-and-a-post-conviction-motion-in-florida

US Legal, Inc. (n.d.). USLegal. Retrieved from https://definitions.uslegal.com/p/post-conviction-relief/

Post-Conviction Relief Attorney | Miami, FL | Appeals & Motion To Vacate. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.spatzlawfirm.com/Criminal-Defense/Post-Conviction-Relief.shtml

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