What to Expect After a Felony Conviction at Trial?
Florida prosecutors work for their own individual politically appointed State Attorneys, each of whom oversees a specific geographic region of the State. Each State Attorney’s annual budget is governed by conviction rates and other statistics that are monitored by the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch. Therefore, felony convictions are a sought-after prize in the criminal justice system with each conviction helping justify funding for the prosecutor’s offices.
When a defendant rejects a plea bargain and goes to trial it is the ultimate expression of our system of justice – the accused truly has their day in court. However jury trials don’t always end up with a Not Guilty verdict like on Boston Legal.
When a defendant is found “Not Guilty” he looks up at the heavens and rejoices in his vindication. However, if the verdict read aloud by the clerk is “guilty” the once-accused-now-convicted is immediately advanced upon by bailiffs, put in handcuffs, and headed to the slammer. What happens next?
Normally a separate sentencing date is set so that all parties have an opportunity to prepare for this separate proceeding. After a conviction at trial it is the judge not the jury who decides punishment. Many times, there are other external factors that come into play at a sentencing hearing that the criminal jury was never made aware of like prior convictions and other relevant personal background history.
Once a sentence is imposed than the convicted defendant can appeal his conviction to the district court of appeal. A Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days of a Florida state court conviction (shorter time limit in federal courts). Once the notice is filed then the rest of the initial appellate process begins to churn into action — transcripts of the jury trial proceedings and a complete copy of the court file must be ordered.
Criminal appeals are mainly argued through appellate briefs, the actual written arguments of the parties; the filing of these briefs is governed by strict timetables. The appellant, the convicted defendant, gets to file two briefs, an initial argument and an answer to the State’s reply. The prosecution, the State, gets to file one reply brief to the initial brief submitted by the convicted defendant.
Oral arguments may be granted if a party moves for the opportunity and the appellate court believes the hearing will advance or clarify the arguments put forth by the parties in their briefs.
Once all the written arguments have been received then a three-judge panel of appellate court jurists will consider the merits of the appeal. The final ruling may take the form of a written opinion or a simple one-page affirmance of the lower court’s ruling (trial conviction and/or sentencing depending on the issues).
“Winning” in a criminal appeal does not always result in the charges being dismissed – in fact it seldom does. Hiring a qualified appellate lawyer can make all the difference in the world.
Contact a Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer
Serious felony charges should never be taken lightly. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa violent crime lawyer, contact The Matassini Law Firm. Nicholas G. Matassini has been Board Certified in Criminal Trial Law by the Florida Bar since 2012. We routinely handle all level of criminal matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.