Attorney standing in court with documents on their desk

Understanding the
Criminal Appeals Process

Melanson Law Office P.C. March 15, 2021

In New York State, the appellate division is composed of four different departments that review issues and resolve appeals in both civil and criminal cases that come up from the lower courts. Through the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, legal errors made in a trial court can be resolved or corrected. The 2019 Annual Report from the New York State Unified Court System indicates that about 9,764 cases were filed statewide in the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court, comprising 2,584 criminal cases.

If you have reasons to believe that you have been wrongfully convicted or sentenced unfairly, it is imperative that you retain a knowledgeable New York State criminal appeals attorney to handle your appeal. When you choose to work with my firm, Melanson Law Office P.C., you will receive experienced legal guidance and aggressive representation as you pursue the justice you deserve in your appeal. As your legal counsel, I can fight diligently to defend your rights and work to get your conviction overturned or your sentence reduced. My firm is proud to represent clients throughout Kingston, Hudson, Catskill, Highland, and Saugerties, New York, so call or reach out today for help!

Valid Reasons to Appeal

When a person has been charged with a criminal offense, a trial is usually the method used to carry out justice equitably and fairly. However, in some situations, it is possible that the judge or jury makes a legal error that can lead to a wrongful conviction. Some valid reasons to appeal a sentence in New York include:

  • No substantial evidence to support the verdict

  • Improper admission or exclusion of evidence

  • Incorrect instructions from the judge or jury

  • Sentencing errors

  • Ineffective assistance of counsel

  • Miscarriage of justice

  • Juror misconduct

  • Legal error from the lower court or judge

  • Clear and obvious mistakes made during the trial

How The Appeals Process Works in New York

When exploring how the appeals process works in New York, it’s important to understand that an appeal is not a new trial. The purpose of the appeal is to provide a limited review of the existing evidence or convictions. The appeal process is based on law, not facts. The appellate court will not do any of the following:

  • Accept new evidence

  • Retry the case

  • Listen to witness testimonies.

The Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court will review the proceedings and judicial rulings of the lower court or trial court and determine whether the court or judge made any critical legal mistakes that meaningfully impacted the judge or jury's verdict.

Filing a Notice of Appeal

To appeal a criminal conviction in New York, your attorney must properly draft, file, and serve the "Notice of Appeal" within 30 days from the date of the sentence. The notice of appeal is generally a single piece of paper indicating your intent to appeal the verdict. This deadline for filing is very strict, and if you do not file a notice of appeal within that 30-day window, you may lose the opportunity to ever file an appeal.

Additionally, there are four crucial aspects that need to be considered when filing a notice of appeal. These include:

  • Drafting the notice of appeal properly.

  • Filing two copies of the notice of appeal with the clerk of the criminal court where the sentence was pronounced.

  • Serving one copy of the notice of appeal to the prosecutor.

  • Filing the notice of appeal with the proper clerk and serving the notice to the prosecutor within 30 days from the date of the sentence.

Perfecting Your Appeal

Once you have filed your notice of appeal, the next step is to perfect your appeal. This requires gathering and submitting records and briefs to the court. These records will detail the history of your court proceedings and should include all arguments, facts, and decisions. Your attorney will review your personal situation and decide the type of records that will be needed for your case.


A brief is a legal document containing your prior legal arguments on the issues. This brief will:

  • Alert the appellate court to the issues you are appealing

  • State the specific facts that apply to your arguments

  • State the case law supporting your position regarding how the trial or lower court made a legal mistake.

  • Aim to convince the appellate court to overturn your judgment.

Oral Arguments

Your attorney can make a case for an oral argument. If the court accepts, the issue may be argued in front of a panel of judges. Working with an experienced criminal appeals lawyer is important to help prepare the oral argument properly. Your attorney will have to work diligently to make effective arguments in your favor.

Rendering a Decision or Ruling

Once all oral arguments have been made, the appellate court will consider all arguments presented before making a decision. Depending on the complexity of the arguments and issues, it may take some time for the court to make a ruling. The possible outcomes include:

  • The Appellate Division can overturn your conviction.

  • The Appellate Division can reverse the judgment and remand for a resentencing or retrial.

Regardless of the circumstances that led to your appeal, having an experienced attorney to advocate for your rights and present your case will be crucial in your pursuit of the best possible outcome.

Work with an Experienced Criminal Appeals Attorney

Being convicted of a criminal offense when you believe you have been wrongly convicted can be a devastating experience. However, hearing the word "guilty" doesn't necessarily mean that your fight for justice is over. You have a legal right to file an appeal to have your conviction reviewed or overturned. An experienced New York State criminal appeals attorney can help protect your rights and walk you through the appeals process step by step.

At Melanson Law Office P.C., I have devoted my entire career to providing knowledgeable and comprehensive representation to individuals who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes. As your legal counsel, I can examine the evidence that was used against you, review the conduct of the judge, strategize an effective appeal for your case, and fight vigorously to have your conviction overturned. Whether you were sentenced unfairly or negotiated a guilty plea deal based on the poor advice of your defense counsel, I will help you navigate the appellate process and help you fight to retain your liberty.

If you or someone you know is in need of a reliable criminal appeals attorney, contact my firm – Melanson Law Office P.C. – today to schedule a one-on-one consultation. I can offer you the experienced guidance and strong advocacy you need so that you can feel confident about your appeal as you seek the justice you deserve. I also proudly represent clients throughout Kingston, Hudson, Catskill, Highland, and Saugerties, New York, so call or reach out to my office today for help!