Criminal Appeals

Appellate courts are called “courts of last resort” for a reason – at no other time in the litigation process are decisions so critical, so final. That is why it is imperative to choose an appellate lawyer who can maximize your chances of prevailing. Alderman Law Firm attorneys have the expertise and experience to assist you in perfecting your argument on appeal.

Due to the nature of appellate representation, distance is no barrier to effective representation. Based in Madison, the Alderman Law Firm represents litigants on appeal statewide.

What is a Criminal Appeal?

If you have been convicted of a crime in the state of Wisconsin, you have the right to appeal that conviction. In an appeal, you are essentially asking the appellate court to overturn a lower court’s judgment based on an error that occurred during the proceedings.

Appellate arguments are often based on complex legal interpretations. To locate “appealable issues,” in your case, your appellate lawyer must carefully review the written record for procedural errors. Issues argued during criminal appeals include ineffective assistance of trial counsel, failure to suppress inadmissible evidence, improper admission of evidence, and sentencing errors such as imposing an excessive sentence or considering improper factors during sentencing.

A criminal appeal is not an opportunity to re-litigate the facts of your case. Generally speaking, the Court of Appeals reviews cases for errors made during the trial process, and does not second-guess the circuit court’s decisions by looking at the same evidence and making their own determination. The exception to this rule is when the Court of Appeals applies a de novo standard of review to a particular issue or case.

I Have New Information Regarding my Case, May I Argue it on Appeal?

The Court of Appeals will only consider the record of the Circuit Court. Consequently, the Court of Appeals will NOT consider information that is outside the record.

In considering cases, the Court of Appeals will accept the factual findings made by the lower court. Appeals are therefore not the proper venue to introduce newly found evidence, no matter how important or exculpatory it may be.

I Want to Appeal my Conviction, Where do I Start?

If you want to appeal a criminal conviction, the first and most important step is to file your Notice of Intent to Pursue Post-conviction or Post-disposition Relief (“NOI”). This must be done within 20 days after your sentence was imposed. Wis. Stat. 809.30(2)(b). The Wisconsin court system provides forms you can use online: Notice of Appeal in PDF, and Notice of Appeal in Word.

If you are certain that you would like to file a criminal appeal, you should file your NOI immediately after your conviction.

What Happens After I File my NOI?

If you choose to retain an attorney or represent yourself (proceed “pro se”), the clerk of the circuit court will send you or your attorney materials within 5 days after your NOI was filed. Wis. Stat. 809.30(2)(c).

After you receive these materials, you have 60 days to review the documents for errors and determine how you would like to proceed. Wis. Stat. 809.30(2)(h). You may choose to either (1) file a Notice of Appeal, or (2) file a Motion for Post-Conviction Relief.

What is a Motion for Post-Conviction Relief?

A notice of appeal may only be filed if all the issues you plan to raise have been properly raised by the trial attorney and previously decided by the Circuit Court, or if the only issue you intend to raise is based on sufficiency of the evidence. If neither of these is the case, you must file a motion for post-conviction relief before you can file an appeal.

In a Motion for Post-Conviction Relief, a criminal defendant argues that the conviction or sentence imposed violated the Constitution, the sentencing court lacked the proper authority to impose sentence on the defendant, or that the imposed sentence exceeds the appropriate statutory maximum.

If you still wish to file a notice of appeal after your motion for post-conviction relief has been decided, you have 20 days from the date of ruling to do so. Wis. Stat. 809.30(2)(j).

What if The Court of Appeals Denies my Appeal?

If your appeal is denied, you may ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review your case. Wis. Stat. 809.62(1m)(a). Although you have the right to request such review, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is not required to hear your case. Wis. Stat. 809.62(1r). The majority of petitions for review to The Wisconsin Supreme Court are denied.

If you wish to ask the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review your case, you must file a petition for review within 30 days of the Court of Appeals’ decision. Wis. Stat. 808.10(1). This deadline cannot be extended, so time is of the essence.

The Wisconsin court system has published a Guide to Seeking Review in the Wisconsin Supreme Court to assist litigants in learning about this process.

What Can The Alderman Law Firm Do For Me?

According to statics released by the Wisconsin court system, 84 percent of all appeals — both civil and criminal — that made it to the opinion phase of litigation were denied in 2011.

Criminal appeals are decided based solely on written documents, which include your brief (“appellant’s brief”), the State’s response to your brief (“respondent’s brief”), your reply to the State’s brief (“reply brief”), and the written record. It is therefore vital to have your case researched and briefs written by an experienced professional.

The attorneys at the Alderman Law Firm are experienced in appellate advocacy, providing you with expert assistance every step of the way. From reviewing your case materials and transcripts for errors to skillfully drafting your appellate and reply briefs, the attorneys at the Alderman Law firm have the breadth of experience necessary to provide you with the best chance of success on appeal.

If you choose to navigate the appellate process on your own, the Clerk of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals offers a Guide to Appellate Procedure for the Self-Represented. However, the Guide recommends that litigants procure the assistance of an attorney, and for good reason. The appellate process is “complicated, time-consuming, and difficult.” Moreover, as the guide points out, pro se litigants do not receive any special treatment or consideration from the Court of Appeals.

Win or lose, criminal appeals have a permanent impact on your life. Your life and freedom deserve a professional.

Are You An Attorney Interested in Writing Services & Appellate Consulting?

The Alderman Law Firm offers appellate services and litigation consulting to other attorneys and law firms on a per-project basis.

What If I Have More Questions?

The above information is offered as a general overview of the criminal appeals process. This information is provided as a courtesy, and is not legal advice. If you are considering undertaking a criminal appeal, please contact the Alderman Law Firm for your free consultation at (608) 620-3529.