Several new appeals came into the office this year. Fortunately, my clients possessed the presence of mind to call early in the Texas appeal process to preserve as many of their rights as possible. The appellate timetable is unforgiving and must be complied with strictly to preserve one’s right to review. Bryan-College Station criminal defense lawyers, and prospective appeal clients alike, must be familiar with the time limits applicable to criminal appeals in Texas. The written notice of appeal is the document that begins the process.
A plea bargain, where the trial judge does not exceed the punishment recommendation from the prosecutor, usually waives the defendant’s right to appeal except for matters raised by written motion and ruled upon prior to the plea. Motions to suppress evidence, for instance, are examples of such appealable matters. Most appeals, however, result when a criminal case is contested and fought-out before the trial judge or jury. The defendant appeals the conviction itself and errors committed during the punishment phase of the trial.
One’s sentencing date is the key point in the appeal process. Most time limits imposed upon the defendant in a criminal appeal begin to run on the day a person is sentenced. In general, the defendant has 30 calendar days in Texas to file a motion for new trial or to file a notice of appeal which vests jurisdiction in the appellate court.
A motion for new trial is the best way to develop non-record claims such as ineffective assistance of counsel, disproportionate sentences, or juror misconduct. Other possible claims raised in a motion for new trial include the denial of counsel, the misdirection of the jury, defense witnesses prevented from appearing in court, or evidence tending to establish a person’s innocence being intentionally destroyed or withheld. Also, any time the verdict is contrary to the law and evidence a claim can be raised in the motion for new trial.
The written notice of appeal must be filed within 30 calendar days of sentencing unless a timely motion for new trial was filed. This extends the deadline for perfecting appeal to 90 days after sentencing. After the appeal is perfected the “reporter’s record” (i.e. transcript) must be requested and a “designation for material” (e.g. exhibits) filed with the clerk. Although the request for the reporter’s record and the designation are not subject to the 30 day deadline, it’s a good idea to file these papers early to assure the ball is rolling and the appeal is proceeding in a relatively rapid fashion.
After notice of appeal is filed the defendant may request an appeal bond, provided his sentence did not exceed ten (10) years confinement. Granting an appeal bond is discretionary with the trial judge. The judge may also order the defendant comply with bond conditions like regular reporting , a curfew, or other reasonable conditions.
If you have any questions about appealing a criminal case in Brazos County, or other jurisdictions in Texas, please contact a Texas criminal appeal attorney immediately to discuss your case.
Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and retired amateur bicycle racer.