Individuals convicted of a criminal offense in South Carolina will likely want to know how many opportunities they have to appeal the verdict against them. Generally speaking, criminal defendants can make a single appeal to the court that rules directly above the one that determined guilt in their cases. This fact means that the number of appeal opportunities a defendant enjoys depends on the number of courts that operate above the one that made the original ruling.
The criminal court system in South Carolina works in three stages. The Court of General Sessions hears the original trial testimony. Defendants can request that a criminal defense attorney file a motion with the Court of Appeals if they receive unfavorable verdicts from the Court of General Sessions.
One last appeal may be available to the defendant through the South Carolina Supreme Court. However, there is no guarantee the state’s highest court will agree to hear a case.
The appeals process
Two significant actions must take place before a defendant can exercise the right to appeal. First, a lawyer for the defendant must file a notice of appeal. This notice is often a one- or two-page document that informs the court that issued the decision about the defendant’s intent to appeal. Defendants have 30 days from the adjudication of a criminal case to file a notice of appeal.
The next step in the process is filing an appellate brief. The appellate brief is usually a lengthy document that includes reasons a defendant claims an error on the part of the original trial court. The appellate brief will also cite evidence of any errors within the trial transcript.
The appeals process provides defendants with the opportunity to find relief from the consequences of a criminal conviction. Appeals courts are particular in the way filings are handled, and a lawyer may prove useful throughout the process.