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Ohio Criminal Appellate Process


The Ohio appeals process can be a very time consuming and research-heavy task for attorneys. However, for most people, this is the last shot to win their case—this process is very important. The most significant part of this process is the research and the brief. The following sub-headings are the main stages of the appellate process.

Notice of Appeal

After the trial court makes it decision, more than likely not in the defendant's favor (or you wouldn't need to appeal), we will have 30 days to file a "notice of appeal" with the court of appeals. This notifies the appellate court that the defendant intends to appeal the lower decision. This notice can only be filed after the case is "ripe" for adjudication—a.k.a. the case is finished in the lower court and can be heard in the appeals court. Similar to fruit being ripe for picking and eating, a case has to be ripe for arguing on the merits. Once all of these notifications are filed and in place, the defense can then ask for the initial documents from the trial court.

Starting Documents

Some of the documents that the appeals court needs are a docketing statement, and a "praecipe." The praecipe is a document asking the court to send all the lower court documents to the defense attorney. These documents are of absolute necessity because they are the only explanation of what occurred in the lower court. An appellate attorney's picture of the lower court case is in this transcript and other relevant documents. Now that the roadmap is set, the defense attorney will move into the most critical stage of the appellate process—the brief.

The Brief

The brief is vital to an effective and winning appeal. Within the appellate brief is the defense's explanation of why the lower court got it wrong. There is A LOT of research and case law used in this brief, and this process is very time-consuming and complicated. However, unlike a trial where the attorney has chances to speak to opposing counsel about potential deals or pleas, in an appeal there is no chance for this—everything that is important will be in this brief for the panel (normally three judges) to read.

Back and Forth

Once the brief is finished and filed with the court, the opposing counsel—the appellate prosecutor—will be allowed to respond to the defense brief. Normally, the State will then tell the panel of judges why the defendant does not deserve or is not entitled to an appeal because either the defense's arguments are flawed in some way, or the lower court got it right the first time. The defense will also get to reply to the State's response, however they get a much shorter time to do this—normally 10 days.

Oral Argument

This argument is just as important as the brief itself because without this argument, the panel of judges will read the briefs, and make their decision based solely on what is written. The oral argument gives the attorneys a chance to explain their arguments and clarify anything to the panel. Plus, allowing a judge to hear something twice helps the attorneys hammer home their arguments—this is always a good option.

Final (sometimes) Judgment

The panel will then make a decision sometime in the future—time may vary from statute to statute. However, if the panel makes an unfavorable decision to either side, or the decision does not agree with another appellate court (conflicting theories) in Ohio, the State or the defense can ask the court to "certify" the conflict and send the case to the Ohio Supreme Court for adjudication. However, if the opinion or ruling conflicts with that same appeals court, you can ask the court for an "en banc" decision. This is normally the last shot at winning the case. The Meranda Law Firm, LTD can give you the best shot at winning your appeal. Give us a call.