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The Different Types of Criminal Appeals in Oklahoma

If you are looking for an Oklahoma criminal appeal lawyer something has gone terribly wrong. Criminal appeals in Oklahoma are very complicated and you will want to educate yourself about the process and find an attorney that understands the appellate process. After conviction in Oklahoma there are generally three (3) types of appeals that can be made to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Which type of an appeal you need depends on how you obtained your conviction (through a trial or through a plea) and whether or not you have already had a direct appeal.

Direct Appeal

A direct appeal is an appeal that occurs after a trial. This is the most common type of criminal appeal in Oklahoma. A defendant that is convicted at either a jury trial or a bench trial has the right to appeal that conviction to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Most people seeking a criminal appellate lawyer are looking for a lawyer to handle this type of appeal. If a defendant is indigent, they have the right to be represented on this appeal at state expense. This page describes explains the process for direct appeals below.

Post-Conviction Relief

A post conviction appeal is an appeal based upon Title 22 OS Section 1080. This appeal must be based upon one of the grounds specifically enumerated in that statute. It is not an opportunity to re-argue the same issues that you argued on direct appeal. Learn more about post conviction appeals, also reffered to as post conviction relief.

Appeal of Denial of Motion to Withdraw a Plea and/or Petition to Withdraw a Plea Out of Time

To challenge a conviction obtained as a result of a plea, a defendant must file a written Motion to Withdraw Plea within ten (10) days of the sentencing date. (not the plea date, but the sentencing date) In that motion the defendant must explain why they wish to withdraw their plea and why they believe their plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. If a defendant follows this process and is not allowed to withdraw their plea, they can appeal that denial to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

A defendant that wish to withdraw their plea after the 10 day deadline, must go through an extra process and file a request to withdraw their plea “out of time”, this motion is filed at the trial court level and the defendant has to explain why their motion was not filed within ten (10) days. The trial court must then make a recommendation as to whether the defendant should be allowed to attempt to withdraw his or her plea out of time. Then a defendant must file a Request to Withdraw Plea Out of Time with the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decides whether or not a defendant should be allowed to attempt to withdraw the plea out of time. The District Court does not even have jurisdiction to grant a motion to withdraw a plea, that was filed after the ten (10) day deadline, unless the Court of Criminal Appeals grants the defendant's motion to withdraw a plea out of time. This is one of the most misunderstood scenarios in Oklahoma criminal appellate procedure.

Overview of Oklahoma Criminal Direct Appeals

Purpose of Direct Appeals in Oklahoma

Those individuals convicted of a crime at a jury trial or a bench trial are entitled to appeal the conviction to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. (COCA) The purpose of an appeal is not to challenge the jury's factual determination, but to ensure that the process by which the jury reached that verdict was fair and the rights of the accused were not violated during the trial. In most cases the appellate attorney will raise issues that challenge legal rulings made by the trial judge. However, if appropriate the appellate attorney can raise propositions of error that do not necessarily involve rulings by the trial court such as newly discovered evidence, prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of trial counsel.

Hire an Appellate Lawyer with Significant Criminal Trial Experience

I recommend that when looking for an appellate lawyer to appeal a criminal conviction, that you find a lawyer with significant criminal trial experience. The judges on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, who will decide the appeal, all have significant criminal law trial experience. (If they did not have that experience they would not have been appointed to that position.) An appellate lawyer with criminal trial experience understands the trial process in a way that a non-trial lawyer never can. An experienced trial lawyer, who also handles appeals, will know which errors the judges will consider to be serious and which errors the judges will not consider to be serious. This is very important because of the “harmless error” doctrine.

Understanding the Role “Harmless Error” Plays in Direct Appeals

Most cases are affirmed on appeal. Successful appeals are typically those appeals that raise serious errors of law that significantly affect the rights of the accused. Errors committed in the trial which do not result in miscarriages of justice or constitute in substantial violations of constitutional of statutory rights are known as "Harmless Error". When considering issues to raise on appeal one should keep the Harmless Error Doctrine in mind.

When the State seeks to convict one of its citizens of a crime and deprive that citizen of his or her life or liberty, the State should, at the very least, be required to follow the law. Quite appropriately, this Court applies the " harmless error" doctrine to errors which neither result in a miscarriage of justice nor constitute a substantial violation of a constitutional or statutory right. Thus, our law does not require perfection by the State in prosecuting a citizen. We can, and do, frequently deem harmless those errors which do not substantially violate an individual's rights. Flores v. State, 1995 OK CR 31.

Should you Hire a Private Lawyer to Handle Your Direct Appeal?

I am frequently asked “Should I hire a lawyer to handle my direct appeal?” The answer to that question is it depends on how serious you are about fighting the conviction. If you are serious about fighting your conviction, especially if you are planning on appealing the conviction all the way to federal court, than absolutely you should hire a private lawyer to handle your direct appeal. Just make sure you hire a private lawyer that understands federal habeas law.

The Process of Appealing a Criminal Conviction in Oklahoma

Appealing a Criminal Conviction in Oklahoma at State Expense

Individuals without the funds to hire an attorney to represent them on appeal are entitled to be represented on appeal at state expense. In order to be represented on appeal at state expense a defendant must file out a “Pauper's Affidavit” and based upon that affidavit the Trial Court will make the determination of whether that individual is indigent or without the funds to hire an attorney to represent them on appeal.

Once the Court has made a determination of indigency the Court will appoint that individual an attorney at state expense or and order the transcripts prepared at state expense. Just because a defendant had a private attorney representing them at trial does not mean that they are not entitled to be represented on appeal at state expense. The determination must be made on a case by case basis based on the Pauper’s Affidavit.

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