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How Criminal Appeals Work In Colorado

How Does A Criminal Appeal Work In Colorado

When a verdict in a criminal case feels unjust, there is often a path forward to seek justice.

This is where the appeals process comes into play, and understanding how a criminal appeal works in Colorado is crucial for anyone looking to navigate the legal landscape of the state.

Colorado has a distinct set of rules and procedures for criminal appeals, which can initially seem overwhelming. In this comprehensive guide, we will unlock the mystery behind the appeals process in Colorado and provide clarity on each step involved.

Understanding The Basis For An Appeal

Appealing a criminal conviction does not result in a new trial but rather a reconsideration of the case’s legal merits. In Colorado, an appeal can be based on legal errors made during the trial, ineffective assistance of counsel, or new evidence coming to light.

Submitting The Appeal Notice

A notice of appeal must be submitted as the first stage in any appeals process. The defendant, now the appellant, formally requests a new hearing in this matter by filing this application. The notice of appeal must be filed within a specific time frame, usually 49 days from the sentencing date or final order.

The Importance Of A Skilled Appellate Attorney

Having an experienced appellate attorney is crucial in navigating the complexities of the appeals process. These legal professionals specialize in reviewing cases from a legal perspective, identifying errors, and building a solid argument for the appeal.

Preparing The Record On Appeal

The trial court’s evidence, including documents and transcripts, is included in the appeal. It includes everything from evidence presented during the trial to the court’s rulings on various motions. The accuracy of the appellate court’s review depends on this record.

Drafting The Appellant’s Brief

A brief filed by the appealing party setting forth the grounds for the appeal. It needs to be well-written and researched to provide the case’s facts and the legal rationale for appealing. This is the appellant’s chance to argue why the lower court’s ruling should be overturned or altered.

The Response From The Appellee

The appellee, usually the state in criminal appeals, can respond to the appellant’s brief. This document, known as the appellee’s brief, presents the state’s argument for why the trial court’s decision should be upheld.

Oral Arguments 

After the briefs are filed, the appellate court may schedule oral arguments. This is a chance for both sides to present their arguments in person and answer any questions the judges may have.

The Deliberation And Decision

Once oral arguments are concluded, the appellate court will deliberate and decide. This can take several months as the judges review the record, briefs, and arguments before concluding.

Possible Outcomes Of The Appeal

There are three primary outcomes of an appeal:

  • The conviction is upheld.
  • The conviction is reversed.
  • The case is remanded for a new trial.

Each outcome has significant implications for the appellant and the legal process.

The Role Of Precedent In Appeals

The precedent plays a vital role in appeals, as previous cases can influence the appellate court’s decision. In Colorado, the appellate court’s decision can set a precedent for future cases, making the appeals process an essential part of the legal system.

The Possibility Of Further Appeals

If the appellant is not satisfied with the appellate court’s decision, there may be the possibility of further appeals. This can include seeking a review by the Colorado Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court.

Understanding The Timelines Involved

The appeals process can be lengthy, with various deadlines and waiting periods. It is essential to understand the timelines involved and to be patient as the legal process unfolds.

What Happens If An Appeal Is Granted

A successful appeal can significantly impact, potentially resulting in a new trial or acquittal. This is why it is crucial to have a skilled appellate attorney and to understand the appeals process in Colorado.


Navigating a criminal appeal in Colorado requires a comprehensive understanding of the legal process, as well as patience and perseverance. It is a complex journey with significant implications for the appellant and the legal system. By following the steps outlined in this guide and seeking the assistance of an experienced appellate attorney, individuals can unlock the mystery behind the appeals process and seek the justice they deserve.


  1. What is the difference between a criminal appeal and a retrial?
    • A criminal appeal is a legal process where the appellant seeks to overturn a conviction or sentence based on alleged legal errors during the trial. In contrast, a retrial is a new trial if the appellate court overturns the conviction.
  1. How long does the appeals process typically take in Colorado?
    • Colorado’s appeals procedure might last anywhere from a few months to many years, depending on the circumstances of each case and the court’s workload. On average, it can take several months to a year or more from the time the notice of appeal is filed until a decision is reached.
  1. Can new evidence be presented during the appeal?
    • Generally, new evidence cannot be introduced during a criminal appeal in Colorado. The appellate court’s role is limited to reviewing the lower court’s legal rulings and does not include factual evaluation.
  1. What role does precedent play in the appeals process?
    • The precedent plays a significant role in the appeals process as previous cases can influence the appellate court’s decision. The court will consider relevant precedents when making its decision, and its decision can also set a precedent for future cases.
  1. How can an appellate attorney assist in the appeals process?
    • An appellate attorney can help by reviewing the trial court’s record, identifying legal errors, and preparing a persuasive appellate brief. They can also represent the appellant during oral arguments and guide them through the complexities of the appeals process.
  1. What are the possible outcomes of a criminal appeal?
    • There are three possible outcomes: affirming the conviction, overturning the conviction, and sending the matter back for a fresh trial. The appellate court may also modify the sentence or make other orders as necessary.
  1. What happens if the appellate court’s decision is not favorable?
    • If an appeals court decision goes against an individual, that person has the option of seeking a review from either the Colorado Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court.
  1. Can a case be appealed to the United States Supreme Court?
    • Yes, in some cases, a criminal appeal may be taken to the United States Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court has discretion over which cases it will hear, and it only accepts a small percentage of cases each year.
  1. How does the record on appeal differ from the trial court’s records?
    • The record on appeal contains all trial transcripts and exhibits relevant to the issues in the appeal. It includes the trial transcript, exhibits, and other evidence presented during the trial.
  1. What impact can a successful appeal have on a criminal case?
    • A successful appeal can result in a new trial, a modified sentence, or, in some cases, an acquittal. It can also have broader implications for the legal system as it may set a precedent for future cases.
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