Colorado Appeals

A criminal appeal is a way to challenge your misdemeanor or felony conviction or sentencing in Colorado. An appeal can be filed if

  • there was misconduct during the trial,
  • the judge made a mistake in handling the case, or
  • the jury engaged in misconduct or made a mistake in their verdict.

A successful appeal may result in reversing your conviction, resentencing, or a new trial. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:

1. What is a criminal appeal?

After a criminal trial, conviction, and sentencing, an appeal is a judicial process to have a higher court review the case. The higher court can review the lower court's decision and decide whether to

  • uphold the lower court's ruling,
  • reverse the ruling, or
  • remand the case back to the lower court to rule on specific aspects of the case.

The Colorado District Court can review cases from the county courts. The Court of Appeals reviews cases from the Colorado District Courts.

The party who files the appeal is the “appellant.” The party opposed to the appeal is the “respondent.” If the defendant appeals the court's ruling, he or she becomes the appellant. However, if the prosecutor appeals the court's ruling, the state becomes the appellant.

An appeal is not a chance to retry the case or begin a new trial. The appeals court does a limited review of the case. During the appeal, the judge or panel of judges will look at the transcripts from the case, the decision, and other paperwork from the case. They will also look at the legal briefs and supporting documentation submitted by the appellant's attorney and the respondent's attorney.

Another avenue for challenging a criminal conviction is to file a motion for a new trial in the same court where the trial took place. 

2. When can you file an appeal in Colorado?

The defendant can appeal a judgment of the county court in a criminal action within 35 days after the date of entry of the judgment or the denial of post-trial motions, whichever is later.1 This includes filing a Notice of Appeal and accompanying documents to the court before the deadline. A copy of the Notice of Appeal and Designation of Record also have to be served on the District Attorney.

3. What is the basis for filing an appeal?

In order to appeal your criminal conviction in Colorado, you have to identify specific grounds for appeal. In general, the appellate court will not review new evidence or hear alternative arguments that could have been brought up during the trial. The basis for appeal includes showing:

  • Errors of law
  • Improper jury instructions
  • Errors by the judge
  • Prosecutor misconduct
  • Improper application of the law
  • Evidence did not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt

4. How do you appeal a criminal conviction?

Before you file an appeal, you have to wait until the judgment is entered or post-trial motions have been denied. After entry of judgment, you have 35 days to file a Notice of Appeal and Designation of Record in the county court where your original criminal case was started and pay the filing fee. You also have to give a copy to the district court in that county and serve a copy of the Notice of Appeal on the district attorney.

After filing the notice of appeal, you have 21 days to submit an Opening Brief to the appropriate district court, and give a copy to the district attorney. After you submit your copy to the district attorney, they have 21 days to file an Answer Brief. Following receipt of the Answer Brief, you have 14 days to submit a reply. 2

The brief generally includes a summary of the facts, legal arguments that support your position, supporting case law and statutes, and the relief you are seeking. The specific relief may include a request for a reversal of your conviction, a new trial, or a new sentence.

After all paperwork has been submitted, the district court judge will review the record and the documents. The district judge may then issue a written ruling or order on the case.

6. What happens if you lose your appeal?

If you lose your appeal to the district court, you may be able to appeal that ruling to a higher court. The Colorado Court of Appeals reviews cases from the Colorado District Courts. The appeals process for the Court of Appeals is different than for appeals to the district court.

The Colorado Supreme Court is the highest state court in Colorado and can review cases from the county courts, district courts or Court of Appeals. Appeals can be made directly to the Supreme Court for certain types of cases. Alternatively, the Supreme Court has the discretion to review cases submitted on a petition for certiorari. If a petition for certiorari is granted, there is a specific appeals process to follow, including filing briefs and supporting arguments. The Colorado Supreme Court's ruling will overrule all the lower court opinions in Colorado.

Call us for help...

If you have been wrongly convicted or received an unfair sentence in a Colorado criminal court, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. 

Legal References

  1. Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 37(a)
  2. Colorado Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 37(e)

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