Navigating the Appeals Process in Nevada Criminal Courts: Your Path to Justice
There are many ways for a person that has been convicted of a crime to seek relief after they have been convicted.
This is called post-conviction relief.
Post-conviction relief is the process after a criminal conviction where the defendant has the right to take steps to have the conviction overturned or a new trial granted, or even have the verdict vacated.
There are several avenues that a defendant can pursue, one of the most common that we hear about the most is the appeals process.
An appeal is the process of asking a higher court, like the Court of Appeals or The Nevada Supreme Court to review the defendant’s trial transcripts to see if there are significant errors that might warrant a new trial.
An appeal is not a retrial. It is simply reviewing of the record for reversible errors.
The higher court will either hold up the original verdict and the court’s decision or reverse the lower court’s verdict and possibly order a new trial.
What Are Appeals in Nevada Criminal Cases?
A defendant in a criminal case can challenge the court’s ruling by asking a higher court to review and hopefully reverse the conviction.
A defendant or appellant can appeal the following:
- A guilty verdict
- A criminal sentence such as jail time or fines
- Judicial decisions, such as admitting prejudicial or unlawfully obtained evidence into trial
An appeal is a request that a higher court determines that the lower court made a major mistake that needs to be corrected.
What Courts Handle Appeals in Nevada?
For felony and gross misdemeanor cases, the Nevada Supreme Court will hear the appeals.
Roughly one-third of these cases are handled by The Nevada Court of Appeals, which specializes in hearing and deciding appeal cases. Operating just below the Nevada Supreme Court, this esteemed court plays a vital role in the state’s judicial system.
What Are the Grounds for an Appeal
Not every criminal offense that a defendant was convicted of is eligible for the appeals process.
To file an appeal for a criminal conviction, you must have a valid reason. The most frequently cited grounds for appealing a conviction are as follows:
- The district judge in the case incorrectly applied a law or regulation that is prejudicial to the defendant.
- The judge rendered an erroneous ruling regarding the admissibility of evidence, thereby compromising the defendant’s fundamental constitutional right to a fair trial.
- The evidence presented to the court was insufficient to support the gross misdemeanor or felony conviction.
- The jury was given the wrong instructions regarding your case and the conviction.
- There was prosecutorial misconduct by the district attorney’s office during the proceedings of your trial.
The Nevada Supreme court and the court of appeals only decide on the matters of law, not questions of fact.
Questions of law are whether or not the law was applied correctly to the case and its outcome.
Questions of facts are concerned with the truthfulness of evidence, such as the credibility of witnesses.
Can You Introduce New Evidence During the Appeals Process?
The appeals court does not hear testimony or retry a gross misdemeanor or felony case. They only review the original case transcripts.
The appellate courts are searching for procedural and constitutional errors that occurred during the original trial.
What Is the Appeals Process in Nevada
For felony and gross misdemeanors, there is a process to file an appeal in Nevada.
A defendant that wishes to appeal their conviction must first file a notice of appeal with the judicial district court clerk within 30 days of the trial entry of judgment.
The court clerk then prepares the record, which includes all the proceedings and transcripts of the original trial.
The district court clerk notifies the defendant and the prosecution once it files the record with the Nevada Supreme Court.
After the record is filled with the appeals court, the defendant or the defendant’s attorneys have 120 days to file a brief.
A legal brief is a written argument that justifies the appeal.
In the brief, there will be references to relevant laws and other case references to back up any arguments for appeal. A brief must contain every possible argument or issue raised in appeal or you and your legal team may not be able to raise those arguments later.
That’s why an experienced appellate attorney should handle any briefs since they know how to write them to get the best possible outcome.
Once the brief has been filed, the prosecution may file an opposition.
The Defendant then files a reply to the opposition.
In some cases, there are oral arguments in front of the justices where each side has time to embellish the briefs and answer any questions brought by the justices reviewing the case.
The appeals justices will then discuss the issues among themselves.
One justice will then prepare a written decision to be filed with the court.
This decision will either uphold or affirm the original verdict or reverse it. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the case may be remanded to the lower court for a new trial.
Other Post-Conviction Relief Options
There are several other ways that a defendant who is convicted of a felony or gross misdemeanor can get post-conviction relief.
Besides the appeals process, another avenue is requesting or filing a motion for a new trial.
The defendant is asking for a do-over in their case. These motions are rarely granted, since judges are hesitant to reverse their own decisions and admit they made a mistake.
Another option is to file a Writ of Habeas Corpus.
A Writ of Habeas Corpus is when the defendant challenges the legality of their imprisonment.
This option is only available after all other avenues of post-conviction relief have been exhausted.
The most common argument for a writ of habeas corpus is ineffective assistance of counsel.
Unlike the appeals process that only reviews the original trial for errors, writs and motions for a new trial allow the defendant to present new evidence.
In the future, the defendant may ask the court to commute a sentence or have the sentence reduced to time served or a lower amount so they may be released at some point.
Another avenue for seeking post-conviction relief involves the possibility of having one’s record sealed. This measure can effectively prevent the case from appearing on a background check for employment purposes.
A record seal can only occur after the statutorily determined wait time.
A pardon is a final post-conviction relief option.
This is the only way to restore a person’s gun rights in Nevada.
Why Hire a Lawyer for the Appeals Process?
Filing an appeal after a criminal conviction of a felony or gross misdemeanor can be a daunting process.
A brief must be filed within a specific period and is time-sensitive. If you miss the deadline or the brief is not filed properly you may not get to appeal your conviction because of errors when filing. Once an appeal has been filed the brief must be filed with all the information to argue for your appeal.
Failure to provide all the reasons for an appeal may lead to you not being able to argue the missing points later at the oral argument phase.
Experienced appellate attorneys can file a brief correctly on your behalf in the time allotted.
An experienced appellate lawyer can also investigate the original trial transcripts knowing what errors to look for to get your case to the appellate court.
You need to have grounds to file an appeal and criminal defense attorneys with appellate experience can provide you with the grounds to file an appeal.
Speak with an experienced criminal defense team before attempting to file an appeal on your own.
The Defenders provides experienced appellate counsel to review your case and advise you on the appeals process. We can provide the legal arguments needed for a successful appeal in Nevada. Our team is knowledgeable and dedicated to protecting your rights throughout the criminal process.
Contact our office today for a free consultation to discuss options available for post-conviction relief.