Criminal Appeals Process In Ohio
The first step in appealing a conviction is filing a notice of appeal. The notice of appeal, as the name implies, informs the trial court and opposing counsel you are appealing your conviction. You must file the notice of appeal, a docketing statement, and a request for the trial court to transmit the record of the trial level proceedings. You should then order a transcript of the trial level proceedings.
Many people believe that the appeal is simply another trial, but it’s not. Instead, you file an appellate brief, a document in which you argue the conviction should be reversed. In the appellate brief, you typically do not address whether you were guilty or not guilty. Rather, you try to persuade the court of appeals legal errors occurred at the trial level, and, because of those errors, the process was unfair, so the conviction must be reversed. You cannot provide additional evidence; you are only permitted to argue based on what is in the transcript and other records from the trial court.
After you file the appellate brief, the prosecuting attorney files a merit brief arguing the conviction should not be reversed. You may then have the opportunity to file a reply brief to address the prosecutor’s arguments. The case is then scheduled for oral arguments. At the oral arguments, both sides have an opportunity to present arguments to a three-judge panel, and the judges have an opportunity to ask questions of both sides.
The appellate judges do not announce the decision at the oral argument. Instead, they research the issues further and discuss it among themselves before making a decision. The decision is announced and explained in a written decision and opinion of the appellate court.
If a conviction is reversed by the Court of Appeals, the case goes back to the trial court. Depending on the reason the conviction was reversed, the prosecution may be more difficult the second time. The prosecuting attorney then decides whether to begin the prosecution over.
In addition to the appeal described above (a direct appeal), there are other post-sentencing procedures available. Those include a motion for a new trial, a motion for judicial release (early release for a person sentenced to a prison term for a felony); a motion for sentence modification (early release for a person sentenced to a jail term for a misdemeanor); parole (release for a person sentenced to prison before July 1, 1996); pardon/clemency (reduction in sentence by the governor's office); habeus corpus, and expungement (sealing the record of a first offense or a dismissed charge).
Although the Dominy Law Firm has represented many clients for direct appeals and post-sentencing procedures, we typically do not handle these matters now (with the exception of expungements, which we handle regularly). We are providing this information as a service to individuals who are considering appealing a criminal case in Columbus and central Ohio.