I’m continuing my series of posts providing an overview of appeals and diving into specifics on particular appellate topics. Last week, I previously provided an overview of appeals in general and described in particular how they differ from trials. I gave a general overview of the appellate process in Virginia state courts. In this post, I’d like to discuss appealing a criminal conviction in Virginia, and in particular, the kinds of error that can be challenged on appellate review.
Everyone knows that court action begins with a trial, or, at least, the threat of one. A trial litigates both factual and legal issues like, “Was the light green?” or “Was the police officer’s search unconstitutional?” Thus, the purpose of a trial is (1) to determine what happened and (2) to determine if what happened makes a defendant liable for damages or subject to some other kind of court remedy, like an injunction. A civil trial might end in an award of monetary damages, or even an order to stop certain behavior, and a court judgment embodying those remedies. A criminal trial, likewise, could end with large fines, jail time, and an adjudication of guilt that can negatively impact employment prospects and even negatively impact certain civil rights, like the ability to vote and possess a firearm.
What is a person to do in the face of such consequences? Appeal.
In my last post, I explained the difference between a trial and an appeal and highlighted the manner in which an appellate court rules on issues before it. In this post, I’d like to focus in more on the specific process for appealing a verdict in Virginia.