If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Boston, Massachusetts, there many possible ways to resolve the charges, including proceeding to trial. In Boston, the majority of those tried before a jury are convicted. While less than 2% of appeals from criminal convictions are successful, criminal defendants possess an absolute right to appeal their conviction, as well as their sentences to the Appeals Court or the Supreme Judicial Court. A defendant only has 30 days after the verdict within which to file a Notice of Appeal with the trial court. Although there is a procedure for filing a late appeal, there is no guarantee that the appellate court will accept late appeal. The Notice of Appeal serves to let the trial court know that the defendant is exercising the right to appeal in Boston. Once in receipt of the Notice of Appeal, the trial court assembles the record and transfers the case to the appropriate appellate court. In a direct appeal, the next step is to order the transcript. Once the defendant receives the completed transcripts, he files the same with the trial court. The trial court, in turn, sends the transcripts to the Appeals Court. Appellate counsel will review the transcripts to determine on what, if any, legal issues can be raised to attack the conviction. Unfortunately, the appeal limits its review to the evidence introduced at trial, rulings of the trial court, jury instructions, and/or other legal issues/errors; it is, therefore, not the appropriate forum to contest facts or introduce new facts. Indeed, the appellate court will not hear any testimony, review or consider new evidence, or weigh the credibility of trial witnesses. An appellate attorney must carefully examine the trial transcripts for errors. Once he has identified possible legal issues, thoroughly researched them, and selected which issues to raise on appeal, he will draft the appellate brief. The Commonwealth will have the opportunity to submit a brief in opposition to the defendant’s brief. Following the submission of the Commonwealth’s brief, the appellate court will schedule oral argument. While parties to any appeal in Boston are permitted to attend oral arguments, both the Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court discourage parties, particularly defendants, from these hearings. Finally, the appellate court will hand down its decision. The court can overturn then conviction, affirm the conviction, remand the case to the trial court for further findings, or order a new trial. Both parties can appeal the appellate court’s decision to a higher court, except where the Supreme Court issues its decision.
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