Certified Appellate Specialist


Every defendant convicted of a felony in California in state or federal court has a right to appeal, and a right to the appointment of appellate counsel if the defendant is indigent. Alternatively, the defendant can retain an attorney to handle the appeal.

An appeal consists of legal argument to the Court of Appeal that the trial was unfair, usually because of an erroneous ruling by the trial court, but the argument can also be based on other defects in the trial process that were seet forth in the trial record. Generally, an appellant has to show both that there was a legal error in the course of the trial and also that the error had an effect on the conviction.

Separate from an appeal, a defendant may file a petition for writ of habeas corpus after conviction, in the trial court, in the Court of Appeal, or in the Supreme Court. The habeas corpus procedure differs from the appeal in that the defendant can present new and additional evidence in the course of the habeas corpus proceeding, while the appeal proceedings is based solely on the trial record. The trial record consists of the court reporter’s transcript of what was said during court proceedings, and the clerk’s transcript of what documents were filed during the court proceedings.

Statistically, most appeals and habeas corpus petitions are denied, but nonetheless every year some number of appellants do obtain a favorable ruling and receive a new trial, a lesser sentence, or other relief.

If the appeal or habeas petition to the California courts is unsuccessful, the defendant may pursue any federal constitutional claims that were raised in the state proceedings before the federal district court in the area where the conviction occurred. The federal courts apply their own standard of review, which by statute gives considerable deference to the state court ruling, but nonetheless every year some California defendants do obtain a new trial or other relief from the federal courts.