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What is the Appeal Process in Colorado?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP October 30, 2021

Dealing with any type of criminal matter is incredibly intimidating and scary. If you’ve been through a trial and were found guilty and are wondering what your options are, you might be wondering how the appeals process works and if it’s something you can utilize. In this case, contacting an experienced lawyer can be immensely helpful. 

What is an Appeal?

In a criminal case, an appeal is a judicial process where a higher court typically reviews the outcome of your case. They can decide several things upon review, including the following:

  1. They can uphold the lower court’s ruling, meaning nothing changes
  2. They can reverse the ruling 
  3. They can send the case back to the lower court to handle a specific aspect of the case that they believe the lower court got wrong

An appeal is not a ‘do-over’ where you get to have another trial. There are typically very limited issues that can be raised on appeal and reviewed. During the appeal, the court will examine the transcript from the trial and any other relevant and admissible evidence in the case. Usually, the court will also have the defense counsel and the district attorney put together a written brief detailing their belief as to what should happen upon appeal. 

When Can an Appeal be Filed?

In Colorado, the defendant has 35 days after the date that the judgment was entered OR after the denial of post-trial motions to file their appeal – whichever is later. 

In What Circumstances Can an Appeal be Filed?

An appeal can only be filed in limited circumstances. The fact that you simply don’t like the outcome of your case doesn’t necessarily mean an appeal is warranted. Generally, Colorado allows you to appeal your case in the following circumstances:

  • There was an error of law
  • The judge provided improper jury instructions 
  • The judge made an error of some sort
  • There was prosecutorial misconduct, which can include serval issues, such as hiding evidence or not turning over proper discovery
  • The evidence simply did not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 

In most cases, the appellate courts in Colorado will NOT review new evidence or hear new arguments; they will simply look at the trial record and review it. 

Before filing for your appeal, you and your attorney will need to take several steps, but the following are two of the most important ones 

  1. Order and pay for the transcripts from the trial. This is crucial because the higher court needs to be able to see what happened at the trial so they can make their determination. 
  2. Give notice. It’s essential that you and your lawyer let the courts know that you will be filing an appeal. If you don’t it on time, you could end up losing out on the right to appeal because you waited too long.

Contact an Attorney

If you believe you have a valid appeal and you need help, contact an attorney right away. The rules of appeals are complicated, and without an experienced Boulder criminal defense attorney by your side, it will be almost impossible to be successful.