Criminal Appeals Attorney

What is a criminal appeal, and where is it heard?

A criminal appeal is a challenge to a conviction or sentence from a lower court. The court where a criminal appeal is heard depends on whether the conviction or sentence comes from a municipal, district, or superior court.

  • A Conviction or Sentence from Municipal or District Court: If a conviction or sentence is from a municipal or district court, then a superior court judge hears your case and decides the appeal.
  • A Conviction or Sentence from Superior Court: If a conviction or sentence is from a superior court, then the court of appeals hears your case and decides the appeal.

What kind of issues can be raised in a criminal appeal?

Most rulings and judgments can be challenged on appeal. Some of the issues our attorneys have relied on in criminal cases to obtain new trials or outright dismissals include challenges to the following:

  • A prosecutor’s misconduct
  • An attorney’s inadequate representation
  • The admission of unlawfully obtained statements or evidence
  • The court’s unfair restrictions on cross-examination
  • The admission of prejudicial character evidence
  • The court’s failure to give a proposed defense instruction
  • The lack of credible evidence to support a conviction
  • Double jeopardy violations and improper exceptional sentences

What can I do if I was pressured into pleading guilty?

You can file a motion in the trial court to set aside the guilty plea. If you were misadvised about the consequences of a plea, or if you were otherwise pressured into taking a plea deal, it may be possible to set aside that plea. To be valid, a plea must be a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent decision.

Can I introduce new evidence in a criminal appeal?

No. A criminal appeal is limited to the evidence presented in the trial court. If there is additional evidence that your attorney did not try to introduce in the trial court, that evidence cannot be considered by the court of appeals.

It may be possible to introduce new evidence through collateral attack on your conviction. For more information about collateral attacks, see the following section: “What is a collateral attack?”

What is a collateral attack?

A collateral attack is a means by which a person convicted of a crime can introduce evidence that was not presented in the trial court. The most common forms of a collateral attack include the following:

  • Personal Restraint Petitions (PRPs), which are filed in the appellate courts, and
  • Motions for a New Trial or Motions to Set Aside a Guilty Plea, which are filed in the trial court.

Note: One of the disadvantages of a collateral attack is that there is a greater burden on the defense to prove that the error at trial had an impact on the jury.

When do I need to file a notice of appeal or a collateral attack?

There are strict time limits for filing an appeal or a collateral attack. For most criminal matters, the following timelines apply.

  • Appeals: A notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days following your sentencing hearing.
  • Collateral Attack: A collateral attack must be filed within one year of when the judgment becomes final. For purposes of a collateral attack, the date when a judgment becomes final depends upon a number of factors.

If an appeal is not filed, the judgment is final on the day of sentencing. If an appeal is filed, the judgment becomes final on the date the appeal ends.

Note: There are a few exceptions to this one-year limitation, and your attorney can determine whether your case fits within one of those exceptions.

How long does a criminal appeal take, and what is the appellate process?

An appeal takes time. As a general rule, the appellate process takes about a year to complete, although appeals relating solely to the length of a sentence are often decided within six to nine months. The appellate process has several steps and each one takes time.

  • Obtain Transcripts: Your attorney contacts the various court reporters and orders the transcripts. Typically, it takes 45 to 60 days to receive transcripts, but lengthy trials may take much longer.
  • Review Transcripts: Your attorney reviews the transcripts for all possible errors, because the court of appeals does not examine the court record to find errors. Your attorney’s review of the transcripts is one of the most important aspects of the process.
  • Research and File Briefs: Your attorney researches the applicable law, and prepares an opening brief based on the errors found in the transcript. Then a prosecutor files a response, and your attorney has the opportunity to file a reply brief.
  • Court of Appeals Decides: After your attorney and the prosecutor submit and reply to all the briefs, the court of appeals either schedules the case for oral argument, or sends out notice that the case is going to be decided without oral argument. All court of appeals decisions are in writing, and typically the court decision is issued in about a month.

Important: If you do not prevail at the court of appeals, you have 30 days to ask the Washington Supreme Court to accept a review of the case. If the request for a review is not filed within 30 days, then the court of appeals issues a mandate, which means the appeal is over and the judgment is final.

Will I have to serve my time while my case is on appeal?

It depends. The trial court can stay the sentence and allow you to remain out of custody while the case is on appeal, but you may be required to post bail. The trial court can also deny an appeal bond. You can challenge the denial of an appeal bond, but the court of appeals rarely overrules the trial court on that issue.

Why should I retain Dixon & Cannon, Ltd. for my appeal or collateral attack?

Dixon & Cannon, Ltd. offers extensive legal experience and a history of success.

  • We limit the number of clients we accept so that we can ensure each case receives the attention it deserves.
  • We do not rely on only Washington State cases, but search through the caselaw of other states, and professional journals as well, to ensure our clients obtain the best possible outcome in an appeal.
  • We have the technology and electronic research tools needed to support our arguments with the most persuasive authorities possible.

James Dixon handles the appeals and post conviction motions for Dixon & Cannon, Ltd., and he has represented hundreds of clients before the Court of Appeals and Washington State Supreme Court. He has successfully challenged convictions ranging from driving with license suspended to murder in the first degree.

As a result of his successes, James Dixon has been called upon to speak at professional conferences, and has been retained by other attorneys for advice when filing motions at the trial and sentencing stages of cases. For more information about his appellate success, see a representative list of James Dixon’s appeals.

If you have questions about a criminal appeal or collateral attack, call us for a FREE 30-minute initial consultation at 206-957-2247. We can help!




Dixon & Cannon, Ltd. is licensed to practice law in the States of Arizona and Washington. This Web site is created for your general information only and does not represent legal advice. An attorney-client relationship between you and our law firm is not created by you reading this information or calling us. If we decide to work together, we sign a contract to establish our attorney-client relationship.