If you are charged with a violation of a criminal law in the State of Nebraska, you have two basics options for resolving your case. The first is to accept a guilty plea agreement. If you go this route, you will have to admit your guilt in court. In exchange, your criminal defense attorney will negotiate with the prosecuting attorney to determine the terms of your sentence prior to your formal admission of guilt. Your other option is to take your case to trial and allow a judge or jury to decide your fate. If you are convicted at trial, your sentence will be determined by the judge. A conviction at trial, however, is not always the end of your case. As a defendant in a criminal prosecution, you have the right to appeal that conviction. The appellate rules are extremely complex and include a number of exceptions to the general rules. For this reason, it is always best to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney regarding your specific appellate rights. An Omaha criminal defense lawyer offers some general information about your right to appeal and the Nebraska appellate procedures.
What Is an Appeal?
The American judicial system is structured in a way that allows for a three-tiered approach. Because we operate under a federalist form of government, the individual states are responsible for establishing their own court systems; however, the basic structure of the court systems is similar across the nation. At the bottom of the tier are the trial courts. These courts are where disputes are litigated and prosecutions are tried. If you decide to take your criminal case to trial, it will be heard in a County Court (for misdemeanors) or a District Court (for felonies). If you are convicted at that trial, you have an absolute right to appeal that conviction. You must, however, assert your right to appeal immediately following your conviction or you could lose that right.
The Nebraska Appeals Process
As a general rule, an appeal from one of Nebraska’s trial court will go to the Nebraska Court of Appeals. If, however, you were convicted of a misdemeanor offense, you may need to appeal to the District Court first. Conversely, certain cases bypass the Court of Appeals and go directly to the Nebraska Supreme Court, including cases where the death penalty or life imprisonment is imposed, those which challenge the constitutionality of a state statute, or limited “original” actions as defined by the Nebraska Constitution and by state statute. The Nebraska Court of Appeals is a six judge court which includes a Chief Judge who has administrative responsibilities for the court.
It is important to understand that an appeal is not another chance to try your case. The role of an appellate court is to review the trial record form the lower court and decide if the trial court correctly applied the law. In addition, in situations where the trial court exercised discretion, the appellate court is charged with making sure that such discretion was not abused. The appellate court does not, as a general rule, consider any new evidence when deciding an appeal. Instead, the appellate court makes decisions based solely on the trial record, briefs submitted by the parties, and occasionally on oral arguments made by the parties. The Court of Appeals may do one of three things with your case – Affirm, Reverse, or Remand. If the conviction is affirmed it means the Court found no errors in your trial and the conviction stands. If the Court reverses, it means the court did find errors and the conviction is overturned. If the Court remands the case back to the trial court it means the court found an error and is sending the case back to the trial court to correct the error.
If you are unsuccessful at the Court of Appeals, you have a right to appeal that decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court. As you may well imagine, overturning a conviction, or obtaining any type of relief, becomes more difficult the higher up your case moves in the court system. Given the complexity of the appellate process, it is in your best interest to retain the services of an experienced Omaha criminal defense lawyer to help you with your appeal.
Contact an Omaha Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Nebraska, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney right away. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney.