Criminal Appeals in Jacksonville

Appeals in Florida are completely different from what you might have experienced in the trial court. In a way, appeals have a different purpose. Of course, your purpose is always to win, and ours is always to give you the best chances to do so. But appeals achieve that with a completely different philosophy. Appellate law involves a new kind of process for someone who just experienced a trial.

At the Roth Law Firm, we have developed the skills, nurtured the inclination, and accumulated the experience to best represent you in your appeal. We sharpen those skills every day. We are dedicated to our understanding of the law, to an obsessive research of the legal questions raised in your appeal, and to the art of persuasive writing to present your arguments to three judges’ inquisitive minds.

Roth Law Firm can handle appeals from a verdict in a criminal trial involving any of the nearly infinite issues that can arise in a courtroom, including in the areas of:

✔ Jury instructions

✔ Admissibility of evidence

✔ Reasonableness of a search or seizure

✔ Probable cause for arrest or detention

✔ Exclusion of favorable evidence

✔ Statutory interpretation

✔ Unconstitutionality of the criminal statute charged

✔ Bias in jury selection

✔ Ineffective assistance of trial counsel

✔ Sentencing

✔ Capacity to be put on trial, and many more.


We represent defendants appealing their conviction or sentence in front of all five district courts of appeal, depending on where the trial took place.

✔ The First District, which is based in Tallahassee, hears appeals from cases originating in Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Calhoun, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Nassau, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Wakulla, Walton and Washington Counties.

✔ The Second District with offices in Lakeland and Tampa covers five judicial circuits comprising Pasco, Pinellas Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Glades, Collier, Hendry, and Lee Counties.

✔ The Third District in Miami hears appeals from Dade and Monroe Counties.

✔ The Fourth District works form West Palm Beach and covers Palm Beach, Broward, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties.

✔ The Fifth District in Daytona hears appeals from cases that started in Orange, Osceola, Volusia, Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns, Lake, Marion, Sumter, Citrus, Brevard, and Seminole Counties.

We also represent our clients before the Florida Supreme Court whenever it may be called for. The Supreme Court will hear cases that involve constitutional issues and others where the various District Courts disagreed on a question of law. When confronted with those questions, we can take your case as far as it needs to go.

For federal crimes tried in the U.S. District Courts, Mr. Roth practices before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which covers all of Florida (as well as Alabama and Georgia).


Before the Trial Court

If you are looking at an appeal from criminal proceedings, you were convicted of a crime. It capped a long and laborious process that lead to either trial, or a plea deal preserving some appellate rights. By now, you probably know more about the legal system than you ever wanted to.

The pre-trial and trial proceedings followed a somewhat rigid path. It is, in every sense of the word, a court system. An arrest is made, the accused is brought for their first appearance, bail is set. Then the formal charges are brought. (Some cases start with the charges.) Arraignment and a not-guilty plea follow.

A good criminal trial attorney will often file a demand for discovery to obtain the state’s evidence. (Since the obligation is reciprocal, in a few cases, it may be better not to.) Pre-trial depositions also become a possibility.

Even the trial follows a set path. The jury is selected. After that come opening statements, then each side presents its case, submitting documentary evidence, examining and cross-examining witnesses. This is followed by closing arguments, instructions to the jury, and the verdict.

All that is in the past. None of it will be replicated on appeal. We will only be concerned about the proper application of legal standards and statutes.


The Appeal

The Nature of an Appeal

A criminal-law appeal is generally started by the Defendant, who wishes to appeal either the guilty verdict or the sentence. The State may not appeal a not-guilty verdict due to the Constitution’s Double-Jeopardy clause. (It may appeal the sentence and sometimes will.) The party appealing the verdict is the appellant; the other side is the appellee.

As noted, there will be no new evidence, no testimony taken in court, no new document or physical evidence produced. The sole purpose of the Appellate Court is to determine whether or not the Trial Court committed an error of law. The facts are already established.

The Process

The Appellate Process has its own intricacies but is fairly linear as well. You can divide it into five steps.

The first step is to gather the record—all those documents, transcripts, and papers accumulated during the proceedings before the Trial Court. Nothing may be added, but (nearly) everything that came in will be available for review by the Appellate Court.

The second step is for the appellant to write their first brief, called the initial brief. There are very strict rules governing how briefs are written. It is a job best left to appellate experts. That initial brief will explain what happened below, lay out the facts that were established by the documents and testimonies, and then argue what legal mistake or mistakes the Court committed.

The next step is for the appellee to write their brief, called the answer brief. It is similarly formatted and the argument will be focused on why the Court was right and the appellant is wrong.

Step four, the last brief, known as the reply brief, is again written by the appellant and is limited to addressing new issues raised by the answer. It is not an opportunity to rehash what was said in the initial brief.

The last step is the oral argument. Again in a departure from what happened before the Trial Court, time actually in court in an appeal is extremely short. All that has taken place so far happened in writing. Oral argument may, in fact, not take place at all. If it does, each side will have twenty minutes in front of a panel of three appellate judges to answer their questions and explain one last time why the arguments they made in their respective briefs should carry the day.

The Skill Set

As is hopefully evident from all this, the skill set to win an appeal is different from the one to win at trial. We are now talking to three judges with legal training and a vast experience in the law, not to a jury. And we are doing so nearly entirely in writing.

The skills we bring to bear are a deep knowledge of the law, an ability and disposition to research the legal questions down every possible avenue, and a passion for clear and persuasive writing. These are the skills we hone every day to best represent you in your appeal.

Appellate Issues in Criminal Cases

Legal issues arising in criminal cases are infinitely varied. All the same, certain subjects return more frequently than others. A few examples will illustrate some of the topics on which appellate judges may be called upon to rule.

Jury Instructions. The jury is charged with determining what the facts were, then render a verdict based on the judges’ instructions on the law. It is a small wonder that allegedly erroneous jury instructions are often grounds for appeals. Did the instructions fairly reflect applicable law? Were they limited to the law or did they intrude on the jury’s role to decide the facts? Did a missing instruction confuse the jury? Conversely, did the facts support giving a specific instruction?

Discovery. If there was a discovery demand and the parties exchanged documents, a Court’s decision on discovery can affect the entire proceedings, and are generally appealed after trial. If the Court restricted discovery, did it do so properly? Was the judge correct to sustain (or overrule) objections to discovery requests? A frequent flyer in that arena is the prosecution’s constitutional obligation to turn over all evidence, even what might prove the accused’s innocence. Did it do so? Was the evidence indeed “exculpatory,” as such evidence is known? Would it have affected the outcome at trial?

Statutory Interpretation. Every criminal charge is brought under a statute. Interpretation by the trial judge of a rule or statute is always a question of law. It is therefore always reviewable. For example, a statute says it is a crime to exchange currency (dollars for a foreign denomination) without a license. But does the statute cover Bitcoins? The trial court will have to rule on the question if and when a Bitcoins reseller is charged; the appellate court will re-interpret that statute from scratch. Or if a sentence is enhanced or reduced based on some factors in a statute, whether those factors should have been applied in the manner the trial court understood them to will be reviewed on appeal. The Appellate judge will analyze the statute against the established facts without deference to the trial judge. There are hundreds if not thousands of criminal provisions in the statute books. Each is subject to interpretation and therefore a new look appeal.

Constitutionality. Because a criminal sentence is a punishment imposed by the state, every criminal statute must pass constitutional muster. Allegations of unconstitutionality are frequent and not always successful. By the same token, statutes imposing stiffer sentences for ill-defined “crimes of violence” were found unconstitutional when it became apparent no-one could say if certain crimes did or did not qualify. In any event, trial courts must seriously consider constitutional challenges and appellate courts will review those decisions.

Sentencing. Even though sentencing in both Florida and Federal Court is cabined by sentencing guidelines, they are just that—guidelines. Sentencing is one of the most frequent issues on appeal. What will justify an “upward departure”—a stiffer sentence—from the guidelines? What will justify a downward departure resulting in a lighter sentence? Was the departure reasonable? Did the Court apply the factors considered in the guidelines correctly? Was the sentence the result of a fair trial?

Probable Cause. No arrest, and therefore no conviction, can stand if there was no probable cause for arrest. Nor can a conviction be based on evidence found in a search where there was no probable cause for the search. When the trial court finds that there was probable cause, that determination is often challenged on appeal. Did the officer believe in good faith they had probable cause? When is one or several tips sufficient to provide probable cause? If an affidavit supports probable cause to issue a warrant, was it sufficiently specific? Did in include all the necessary facts to show a likely crime had been committed and a likelihood to find evidence of it? These are but a microscopic sample of the probable-cause questions that may be considered on appeal.

Evidence. As in every other area of law, questions of law routinely arise in trials involving criminal matters that concern the admission of evidence. This includes both documentary evidence and the decision to hear testimony in response to a given question over the other side’s objection. Was the evidence relevant? Was it prejudicial? Was the evidence proven authentic? Was there proper foundation for its admission? Was the question a topic for expert or lay testimony?

We Are Ready To Help You

At the Roth Law Firm, we have made appeals a focus of our constant dedication. Whatever your issue coming out of a criminal trial, whether you recognized it in our few examples or not, give us a call so we can help you understand what your appeal will entail and handle it from start to finish.

Appeals in Florida are completely different from what you might have experienced in the trial court. In a way, appeals have a different purpose. Of course, your purpose is always to win, and ours is always to give you the best chances to do so. But appeals achieve that with a completely different philosophy. Appellate law involves a new kind of process for someone who just experienced a trial.

At the Roth Law Firm, we have developed the skills, nurtured the inclination, and accumulated the experience to best represent you in your appeal. We sharpen those skills every day. We are dedicated to our understanding of the law, to an obsessive research of the legal questions raised in your appeal, and to the art of persuasive writing to present your arguments to three judges’ inquisitive minds.

Roth Law Firm can handle appeals from a verdict in a criminal trial involving any of the nearly infinite issues that can arise in a courtroom, including in the areas of:

✔ Jury instructions

✔ Admissibility of evidence

✔ Reasonableness of a search or seizure

✔ Probable cause for arrest or detention

✔ Exclusion of favorable evidence

✔ Statutory interpretation

✔ Unconstitutionality of the criminal statute charged

✔ Bias in jury selection

✔ Ineffective assistance of trial counsel

✔ Sentencing

✔ Capacity to be put on trial, and many more.

We represent defendants appealing their conviction or sentence in front of all five district courts of appeal, depending on where the trial took place.

✔ The First District, which is based in Tallahassee, hears appeals from cases originating in Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Calhoun, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Nassau, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Wakulla, Walton and Washington Counties.

✔ The Second District with offices in Lakeland and Tampa covers five judicial circuits comprising Pasco, Pinellas Hardee, Highlands, Polk, DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Charlotte, Glades, Collier, Hendry, and Lee Counties.

✔ The Third District in Miami hears appeals from Dade and Monroe Counties.

✔ The Fourth District works form West Palm Beach and covers Palm Beach, Broward, St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River, and Okeechobee Counties.

✔ The Fifth District in Daytona hears appeals from cases that started in Orange, Osceola, Volusia, Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns, Lake, Marion, Sumter, Citrus, Brevard, and Seminole Counties.

We also represent our clients before the Florida Supreme Court whenever it may be called for. The Supreme Court will hear cases that involve constitutional issues and others where the various District Courts disagreed on a question of law. When confronted with those questions, we can take your case as far as it needs to go.
For federal crimes tried in the U.S. District Courts, Mr. Roth practices before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which covers all of Florida (as well as Alabama and Georgia).

Before the Trial Court

If you are looking at an appeal from criminal proceedings, you were convicted of a crime. It capped a long and laborious process that lead to either trial, or a plea deal preserving some appellate rights. By now, you probably know more about the legal system than you ever wanted to.

The pre-trial and trial proceedings followed a somewhat rigid path. It is, in every sense of the word, a court system. An arrest is made, the accused is brought for their first appearance, bail is set. Then the formal charges are brought. (Some cases start with the charges.) Arraignment and a not-guilty plea follow.

A good criminal trial attorney will often file a demand for discovery to obtain the state’s evidence. (Since the obligation is reciprocal, in a few cases, it may be better not to.) Pre-trial depositions also become a possibility.

Even the trial follows a set path. The jury is selected. After that come opening statements, then each side presents its case, submitting documentary evidence, examining and cross-examining witnesses. This is followed by closing arguments, instructions to the jury, and the verdict.

All that is in the past. None of it will be replicated on appeal. We will only be concerned about the proper application of legal standards and statutes.

The Appeal

The Nature of an Appeal

A criminal-law appeal is generally started by the Defendant, who wishes to appeal either the guilty verdict or the sentence. The State may not appeal a not-guilty verdict due to the Constitution’s Double-Jeopardy clause. (It may appeal the sentence and sometimes will.) The party appealing the verdict is the appellant; the other side is the appellee.

As noted, there will be no new evidence, no testimony taken in court, no new document or physical evidence produced. The sole purpose of the Appellate Court is to determine whether or not the Trial Court committed an error of law. The facts are already established.

The Process

The Appellate Process has its own intricacies but is fairly linear as well. You can divide it into five steps.

The first step is to gather the record—all those documents, transcripts, and papers accumulated during the proceedings before the Trial Court. Nothing may be added, but (nearly) everything that came in will be available for review by the Appellate Court.

The second step is for the appellant to write their first brief, called the initial brief. There are very strict rules governing how briefs are written. It is a job best left to appellate experts. That initial brief will explain what happened below, lay out the facts that were established by the documents and testimonies, and then argue what legal mistake or mistakes the Court committed.

The next step is for the appellee to write their brief, called the answer brief. It is similarly formatted and the argument will be focused on why the Court was right and the appellant is wrong.

Step four, the last brief, known as the reply brief, is again written by the appellant and is limited to addressing new issues raised by the answer. It is not an opportunity to rehash what was said in the initial brief.

The last step is the oral argument. Again in a departure from what happened before the Trial Court, time actually in court in an appeal is extremely short. All that has taken place so far happened in writing. Oral argument may, in fact, not take place at all. If it does, each side will have twenty minutes in front of a panel of three appellate judges to answer their questions and explain one last time why the arguments they made in their respective briefs should carry the day.

The Skill Set

As is hopefully evident from all this, the skill set to win an appeal is different from the one to win at trial. We are now talking to three judges with legal training and a vast experience in the law, not to a jury. And we are doing so nearly entirely in writing.

The skills we bring to bear are a deep knowledge of the law, an ability and disposition to research the legal questions down every possible avenue, and a passion for clear and persuasive writing. These are the skills we hone every day to best represent you in your appeal.

Appellate Issues in Criminal Cases

Legal issues arising in criminal cases are infinitely varied. All the same, certain subjects return more frequently than others. A few examples will illustrate some of the topics on which appellate judges may be called upon to rule.

Jury Instructions. The jury is charged with determining what the facts were, then render a verdict based on the judges’ instructions on the law. It is a small wonder that allegedly erroneous jury instructions are often grounds for appeals. Did the instructions fairly reflect applicable law? Were they limited to the law or did they intrude on the jury’s role to decide the facts? Did a missing instruction confuse the jury? Conversely, did the facts support giving a specific instruction?

Discovery. If there was a discovery demand and the parties exchanged documents, a Court’s decision on discovery can affect the entire proceedings, and are generally appealed after trial. If the Court restricted discovery, did it do so properly? Was the judge correct to sustain (or overrule) objections to discovery requests? A frequent flyer in that arena is the prosecution’s constitutional obligation to turn over all evidence, even what might prove the accused’s innocence. Did it do so? Was the evidence indeed “exculpatory,” as such evidence is known? Would it have affected the outcome at trial?

Statutory Interpretation. Every criminal charge is brought under a statute. Interpretation by the trial judge of a rule or statute is always a question of law. It is therefore always reviewable. For example, a statute says it is a crime to exchange currency (dollars for a foreign denomination) without a license. But does the statute cover Bitcoins? The trial court will have to rule on the question if and when a Bitcoins reseller is charged; the appellate court will re-interpret that statute from scratch. Or if a sentence is enhanced or reduced based on some factors in a statute, whether those factors should have been applied in the manner the trial court understood them to will be reviewed on appeal. The Appellate judge will analyze the statute against the established facts without deference to the trial judge. There are hundreds if not thousands of criminal provisions in the statute books. Each is subject to interpretation and therefore a new look appeal.

Constitutionality. Because a criminal sentence is a punishment imposed by the state, every criminal statute must pass constitutional muster. Allegations of unconstitutionality are frequent and not always successful. By the same token, statutes imposing stiffer sentences for ill-defined “crimes of violence” were found unconstitutional when it became apparent no-one could say if certain crimes did or did not qualify. In any event, trial courts must seriously consider constitutional challenges and appellate courts will review those decisions.

Sentencing. Even though sentencing in both Florida and Federal Court is cabined by sentencing guidelines, they are just that—guidelines. Sentencing is one of the most frequent issues on appeal. What will justify an “upward departure”—a stiffer sentence—from the guidelines? What will justify a downward departure resulting in a lighter sentence? Was the departure reasonable? Did the Court apply the factors considered in the guidelines correctly? Was the sentence the result of a fair trial?

Probable Cause. No arrest, and therefore no conviction, can stand if there was no probable cause for arrest. Nor can a conviction be based on evidence found in a search where there was no probable cause for the search. When the trial court finds that there was probable cause, that determination is often challenged on appeal. Did the officer believe in good faith they had probable cause? When is one or several tips sufficient to provide probable cause? If an affidavit supports probable cause to issue a warrant, was it sufficiently specific? Did in include all the necessary facts to show a likely crime had been committed and a likelihood to find evidence of it? These are but a microscopic sample of the probable-cause questions that may be considered on appeal.

Evidence. As in every other area of law, questions of law routinely arise in trials involving criminal matters that concern the admission of evidence. This includes both documentary evidence and the decision to hear testimony in response to a given question over the other side’s objection. Was the evidence relevant? Was it prejudicial? Was the evidence proven authentic? Was there proper foundation for its admission? Was the question a topic for expert or lay testimony?

We Are Ready To Help You

At the Roth Law Firm, we have made appeals a focus of our constant dedication. Whatever your issue coming out of a criminal trial, whether you recognized it in our few examples or not, give us a call so we can help you understand what your appeal will entail and handle it from start to finish.


Contact Us to Arrange a Consultation

904-595-7900


Contact Us to Arrange a Consultation

904-595-7900