The Process of Appealing a Criminal Case in Arizona

court, arizona appeals process

The Process of Appealing a Criminal Case in Arizona


We’ve taken a look at filing an appeal in Arizona and now we’re going to dive in a little deeper. When you have good representation from the get-go, an appeal is often not needed. However, there are times when an appeal is necessary. We will start by looking at what an appeal is, and then move on to discussing the exact process of appealing a criminal case in Arizona. 


What is an appeal?

An appeal is a request for a court to review the conviction and sentencing a defendant has received. It also considers court proceedings. The review is done by a higher court of law than the one that gave the original sentence. 

In Arizona, this is either the intermediate appellate court (a panel of three judges) or the Arizona Supreme Court (a panel of five judges.) Any one who has been convicted of a felony in Arizona may make an appeal.


There are three ways to go about appealing a criminal case:


  • a direct appeal (standard process for an appeal)
  • a post-conviction relief petition (a process of bringing more evidence to the court)
  • a petition for writ of habeas corpus (a request to appear in federal court for an appeal)


Let’s take a closer look at how these three break down. 


Arizona Appeals Process

1. Direct Appeal 

In the case of a direct appeal, you must file the appeal within twenty days of receiving your sentence. Keep in mind that if you’ve been sentenced to jail or prison, you’ll most likely remain behind bars while your case is going through the process of being appealed. Sometimes this can take years. 

An Attorney General will be given an opening brief, which presents the argument of the defendant. It basically states that the conviction is erroneous or unwarranted and asks for a reversal. After reviewing, the Attorney General’s assistant will submit a response. The defense may file a reply brief to the Attorney General’s response. 

When this is completed, the case will go to a panel of judges—either the Court of Appeals or the Arizona Supreme Court. The panel will decide whether or not the original sentence stands or needs to be reversed. They may also modify the conviction. 

A reversal means the defendant needs to be re-tried or re-sentenced. The defendant is not usually present for this process. 


2. Post-Conviction Relief Petition

In a post-conviction relief petition (PCR), an appeal is filed in the original trial court and is handled by the judge who tried the case. The next few steps are very similar to what happens in a direct appeal—arguments are presented in writing and a decision is made. 

Sometimes an evidentiary hearing is scheduled as well. In this case, witnesses are called to give testimony in court. Occasionally the defendant is present and may make an impact statement in front of the court. 


3. Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus

Petitions for writ of habeas corpus are a bit different. They’re not filed until all other appeal avenues have been tried. These petitions are federal appeals. Habeas corpus appeals are used to decide if there was an adequate reason for the original sentence. 

Their function protects your “freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action” and ensures that the process used by the state to detain the defendant was correct, legal, and reasonable. 


Start with the Right Defense 

Being charged with a felony is daunting. Learning about the Arizona court system and having the right attorney on your side will go a long way in easing the Arizona appeals process. With Todd Coolidge on your side, you’ll be relying on someone who is trusted by many in the state of Arizona. His firm recognizes the distress and difficulty that comes with criminal charges. 

Put yourself in the right hands. Call Todd Coolidge for expert assistance with your felony, DUI, or other criminal cases.


 Photo by GovernmentZA from Flickr