Criminal appeals are an important part of the legal system. They provide an option for people convicted of a crime to have their trial and the legal process reviewed.
However, several common misconceptions surrounding this area of law can affect both public perception and the expectations of defendants. Understanding these misconceptions can help you better understand the criminal appeals process, including what it is and is not.
Misconception 1: An appeal is a second trial
One of the most common misconceptions is that an appeal is a second trial. Appeals are not retrials. Instead, an appeal is used to review the court proceedings during the trial. The goal is to ensure that it was conducted with legal accuracy and fairness.
The appellate court does not re-examine the factual evidence presented in the original trial. Instead, it focuses on legal issues, such as whether the trial was conducted in accordance with the law and if the defendant’s rights were upheld.
Misconception 2: Appeals are about proving innocence
Another common misunderstanding is that appeals are centered on proving the innocence of the defendant. However, the primary aim of an appeal in criminal law is to identify legal errors that may have affected the trial’s outcome.
It’s not about rearguing the facts or evidence of the case, but about ensuring that legal principles and procedures were correctly applied.
Misconception 3: Any verdict can be appealed
Many believe that any verdict can be appealed, but this isn’t always the case. Grounds for appeal must be based on legal errors, such as misinterpretation of the law, improper admission or exclusion of evidence or jury misconduct. Not every verdict qualifies for an appeal, and appellate courts can dismiss frivolous or unsubstantiated appeals.
Understanding these misconceptions is crucial for individuals involved in the criminal justice system. An appeal is a vital legal process aimed at ensuring justice and fairness, but it is governed by specific legal principles that distinguish it from a trial.