gavel

People sometimes think of an appeal as if it is just a second trial. If you don't like the outcome of the first trial, you can ask for an appeal and do it all over again, hoping for a better outcome. This is not true, and it's imperative to know why.

The Trial

First off, let's look at the role of the trial. It's usually about finding facts. The jury looks at the evidence, listens to the testimonies, and determines what they think took place during the event. This can differ from what one party claims happened. The jury is trying to seek out the truth and then render a verdict of guilty or not guilty of the charges that have been brought.

No New Facts

The difference with an appeal is that there's no new witnesses or evidence, in most cases, and there's not a jury. The court isn't trying to find any new facts. Except in extreme situations where the court believes the evidence disproves something that was taken as fact at the trial, those facts -- who did it, where it happened, when it happened, and the like -- are already established and they hold up in the appeal.

The appeal, therefore, is to look at things like the interpretation and application of the law. For instance, perhaps you've been accused of shooting someone, and the facts back it up. The court decided it was murder, but you think the self-defense laws were not interpreted and applied properly, because you were just protecting yourself. You're not disputing that you shot the person, but you're appealing the decision the jury made based on those facts.

Appeals can also center around things like alleged mistakes made by the jury, insufficient evidence, errors made by a judge, and the like.

Your Rights

This is, of course, just one example. Appeals can take many forms. But it's crucial to know the difference in goals from a trial to an appeal. You likely have a right to both, and you must know how to use them and how to make sure your rights are always respected.