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Appeal a Criminal Conviction| Arizona Criminal Defense Attorneys

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Appealing a Criminal Conviction

Imagine being convicted of a crime you believe you did not commit, or facing a sentence that seems disproportionately harsh. This situation can be incredibly stressful and frustrating, leaving you feeling helpless. Fortunately, there is a process in place to challenge such outcomes: an appeal.

An appeal allows you to request a higher court to review your case for any legal errors that might have affected the trial’s fairness or the verdict itself.

At Colburn Hintze Maletta (CHM), our criminal defense attorneys specialize in the appeals process. We meticulously review trial records, identify grounds for appeal, and provide the dedicated representation you need to pursue justice. If you believe your conviction was unfair, contact CHM to discuss your options for an appeal.

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Appealing a Criminal Conviction

How Long Do I Have to File an Appeal? 

In Arizona, you must file a notice of appeal within 20 days after the entry of judgment and sentence, as per Rule 31.3 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure.

Missing the deadline can jeopardize your right to appeal. However, there are limited exceptions where a late appeal may be accepted, such as if there was excusable neglect or other extraordinary circumstances. 

What are the Grounds for Appealing a Criminal Conviction? 

Several grounds can justify an appeal of a criminal conviction in Arizona. Common grounds include legal errors during the trial, such as improper admission or exclusion of evidence, incorrect jury instructions, or prosecutorial misconduct.

Ineffective assistance of counsel is another significant ground, where the defense attorney’s performance fell below an acceptable standard, affecting the trial’s outcome. Additionally, a conviction can be appealed if new evidence emerges that could exonerate the defendant, provided it could not have been discovered earlier with reasonable diligence.


  1. Legal Errors: Suppose the trial court allowed hearsay evidence that significantly influenced the jury’s decision. This can be grounds for an appeal based on improper evidence admission. 
  2. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel: If a defense attorney failed to investigate an alibi that could have proven the defendant’s innocence, this could be grounds for an appeal based on ineffective counsel.
  3. New Evidence: Imagine new DNA evidence is discovered post-conviction that proves the defendant did not commit the crime. This new evidence can be a strong basis for appealing the conviction under Rule 32 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure.

These examples highlight the importance of a thorough review of the trial process to identify any potential grounds for appeal.

What if There is New Evidence In My Case? 

If new evidence emerges after your conviction, it can significantly impact your case. In Arizona, you can file a petition for post-conviction relief under Rule 32 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure. This rule allows for the introduction of new evidence that could not have been discovered earlier with reasonable diligence and that is likely to change the outcome of the case.

New evidence can include things like DNA results, newly discovered witnesses, or other material facts that were not available during the original trial.

To successfully present this new evidence, you must demonstrate that it is relevant and credible, and that it has the potential to exonerate you or substantially alter the verdict.

If the court finds the new evidence compelling, it may order a new trial or even vacate the conviction

How Does the Appeal Process Work? 

The appeal process in Arizona involves several steps to ensure a thorough review of the trial court’s decision. 

Filing a Notice of Appeal

The first step in the appeal process is filing a notice of appeal with the trial court. This must be done within 20 days of the judgment and sentence. The notice of appeal is a formal statement indicating the intent to seek review by a higher court.

Preparing the Record on Appeal

Next, the trial court prepares the record on appeal, which includes transcripts of the trial proceedings, exhibits, and any other relevant documents. This record is essential for the appellate court’s review.

Submitting Briefs

The appellant (the party appealing) submits an opening brief outlining the legal arguments and grounds for the appeal. The appellee (the opposing party) then files a response brief, and the appellant may file a reply brief to address points raised by the appellee.

Oral Arguments

In some cases, the appellate court may schedule oral arguments. During these sessions, attorneys for both parties present their arguments and answer the judges’ questions. This step provides an opportunity to clarify and emphasize key points from the written briefs.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

After reviewing the record and considering the briefs and oral arguments, the appellate court will issue a decision. The court may affirm the conviction, reverse it, or remand the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. The decision is typically detailed in a written opinion.


Post-Decision Options

If the appellate court’s decision is unfavorable, the appellant may seek further review by filing a petition for review with the Arizona Supreme Court. This court has discretion over whether to hear the case.


Understanding Potential Rulings From the Arizona Appellate Court

The Arizona Appellate Court can issue several types of rulings in response to an appeal. 


  • Affirmation of Conviction: The court finds no significant legal errors in the original trial, and the original verdict and sentence remain in place.
  • Reversal of Conviction: Significant legal errors are found that affected the trial’s outcome, leading to the invalidation of the original conviction. The case may be dismissed or retried.
  • Remand for a New Trial: The case is sent back to the lower court for further proceedings due to errors during the trial that warrant a new trial but do not justify outright reversal.
  • Modification of Sentence: The court upholds the conviction but changes the sentence, usually because the original sentence was improperly calculated or excessively harsh.
  • Dismissal of Appeal: The appeal is dismissed if it was not filed correctly or lacks valid legal grounds, leaving the original conviction and sentence unchanged and potentially limiting further appeal rights.
  • Petition for Review by the Arizona Supreme Court: The appellant can seek review by the Arizona Supreme Court if the appellate court’s decision is unfavorable. The Supreme Court has the discretion to accept or deny the review.

What is the Role of the Arizona Supreme Court

In criminal defense appeals, the Arizona Supreme Court serves as the highest authority to review decisions from lower appellate courts.

It has discretionary jurisdiction, meaning it selects which cases to hear, typically focusing on those involving significant legal questions or conflicting appellate decisions.

The court’s role is to ensure the correct application of the law and to address any major procedural errors that may have occurred during the trial or appellate process. As the final arbiter, its rulings are definitive and set important legal precedents.

Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at CHM To Appeal Your Conviction 

If you believe errors occurred during your trial or if new evidence has come to light, the criminal defense attorneys at Colburn Hintze Maletta (CHM) are here to help. Our experienced team specializes in handling complex appeals, ensuring that your case is thoroughly reviewed and all potential grounds for appeal are meticulously explored. With our in-depth knowledge of Arizona law and a strong commitment to our clients, we are dedicated to fighting for justice on your behalf.

Contact CHM at (602) 825-2500. today to discuss your case in a FREE and confidential 30-60 minute initial consultation, take the first step towards appealing your conviction today.

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