What is the basis for an appeal to be accepted?
The defendant must demonstrate to the appellate court that an error was made at the trial level that had a substantial impact on the end result. “Harmless errors” are not grounds for reversing the judgment of a lower court.
There are two basic grounds for appeal:
The lower court made a serious error of law. This is considered a “clear error.” A “clear error” is an error or defect that affected the defendant’s substantial rights.
The weight of the evidence does not support the lower court’s decision. It is difficult to prevail in an appeal of this type since the appellate courts rarely hear actual testimony, view the presentation of evidence, or hear the opening and closing arguments. Therefore, they give the lower courts deference regarding these evaluations of facts.
If the appeals court finds an error that contributed to the trial court's decision, the appeals court will reverse that decision. The lawyers for the each side submit briefs to the court and each are usually granted an oral argument. Once a decision has been made by the appeals court, the opportunity for further appeals is restricted, although possible.