When faced with any type of criminal charge, a defendant’s goal is to be acquitted or have charges dropped. Alternatively, they may seek a favorable plea agreement that is less harmful than a conviction. Sometimes, despite all efforts by the defendant and their legal team, they find themselves convicted of a crime.
The question, then, is what comes next? When can a defendant appeal their conviction in a Florida criminal case? Fortunately, Florida law permits appeals in certain situations.
Under Rule 9.140(b)(1) of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, a defendant can appeal:
- a final judgment of guilt;
- a final order withholding adjudication after a finding of guilt;
- an order granting probation or community control, or both – even if guilt has not been ruled upon;
- orders entered after a final judgment or finding of guilt – including orders to revoke or modify probation or community control, or orders to deny relief under Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure 3.800(a), 3.801, 3.802, 3.850, 3.851, or 3.853;
- a sentence that is unlawful;
- a sentence, when the appeal is required or permitted by general law; or
- as otherwise provided by general law.
Chapter 924 of the Florida Statutes provides further instruction for appeals in Florida criminal cases – including preservation of issues for appeal and how a conviction can be appealed.
What does this all mean for Florida defendants? First of all, most rights to appeal stem from an adjudication – or finding – of guilt. Plea agreements generally don’t meet this requirement. The right to appeal begins after an adverse result after trial or after a hearing on a particular issue.
Under Rule 9.140(b)(2), a defendant may “expressly reserve” the right to appeal a “prior dispositive order” of the court. However, determining what the appellate court will consider a “dispositive order” can get murky and involve uncertainty for litigants.
Otherwise, if a defendant pleads guilty, they can only later appeal:
- the court’s lack of subject matter jurisdiction;
- a violation of the plea agreement, if preserved by a motion to withdraw plea;
- an involuntary plea, if preserved by a motion to withdraw plea;
- a sentencing error, if preserved; or
- “as otherwise provided by law”.
One rule that applies to almost all appeals is that a defendant can only appeal an issue of law, fact, or procedure that was raised during the original case. A defendant cannot raise new issues or present new arguments for hearing that were not heard by the trial court.
In practice, for defendants, this means challenging elements of the prosecution’s case as they are presented in court. Whether this means filing a motion to dismiss or to suppress evidence at the pretrial phase, or making proper objections at the time the objectionable evidence is presented, a defendant’s counsel must stay on top of the case and raise these issues as they arise. Failure to make timely objections, or file certain motions, can mean a problematic issue is essentially forfeited to the prosecution.
Due to the various rules prohibiting certain appeals (and exceptions to these rules), it is wise to approach a potential appeal with the assistance of skilled legal counsel. Having the right attorney might not only mean the difference between acquittal or conviction – but the right to appeal certain issues if a conviction does happen.
If You Have Been Charged with a Crime or Need to Appeal a Conviction, Contact the Tampa Criminal Defense Attorneys at Trombley & Hanes
The right to appeal a conviction is one of the most widely understood rights a defendant has. How to go about it, and what rules apply, however, can be difficult things for even attorneys to understand. At Trombley & Hanes, our Tampa criminal lawyers have decades of experience working with defendants in all types of criminal cases, and preserving their rights to appeal for any number of reasons. If you have any questions about your case or about the appeals process, contact us today.