Just because you've been convicted of DWI in Houston doesn't mean that your fight is over. If you believe that the court made a mistake and that you have been wrongfully convicted, you have the right to request an appeal. It's important to understand that the appeals process is complicated. You'll need the help of an attorney who has experience handling DWI appeals.
Houston DWI lawyer Doug Murphy is Board Certified in both criminal law and DWI defense. For the past 18 years, he has handled the most complex DWI matters in Texas, including many appeals. If you've been wrongfully convicted, he'll help you fight to set the record straight. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to schedule your free DWI appeal consultation today.
What is a DWI Appeal in Harris County TX?
A DWI appeal is a formal request to have a higher court review a DWI conviction. However, an appeal is not a new trial. The appellate court will not review new evidence, consider witness testimony, or accept new affidavits. Instead, the court will simply review the lower court transcript and briefs submitted by the attorneys. This review will determine if the lower court applied the law incorrectly or permitted misconduct that affected the outcome of your case.
When Do I Have the Right to File an Appeal in Texas?
The right to an appeal is extended to criminal defendants under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure §44.02. You only have the fundamental right to request an appeal if you have been convicted of a crime. If you entered a plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere, you'll either have to preserve the appeal in writing before the matter concludes or get the trial court's permission.
How Long Do I Have to Appeal a DWI Conviction in Harris County?
Anyone convicted of a crime in Texas has the fundamental right to file an appeal. However, there is a very short window in which your request for an appeal can be submitted. In most cases, you must submit a notice of appeal within 30 days of your guilty verdict. If you don't file the notice of appeal on time, your conviction will stick and you'll lose the right to challenge the outcome.
However, your attorney can secure additional time to file an appeal by filing a motion for a new trial. This allows your attorney to point out grounds for appeal that may not be contained in the official record. When the motion for a new trial is submitted, you'll have 90 days from the date of your judgment to request an appeal. This gives your attorney additional time to prepare a brief in support of your appeal.
How Do I Request an Appeal After a Texas DWI Conviction?
So, you have 30 days to file a notice of appeal. The best thing to do is have your attorney submit the notice of appeal and motion for a new trial immediately after the verdict is announced at trial. This helps to ensure that your rights are fully protected and that the appeal is filed within the applicable time frame.
However, there may be times when the notice of appeal is not submitted at trial. When this happens, you must submit your notice of appeal with the clerk for the court where your trial was held. The clerk will forward your request to the appropriate Appellate division. If you were convicted of DWI in Harris County, your appeal will be handled by the Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Houston.
What Happens When My DWI Conviction is Appealed?
The appeals process can be complicated. Here's what you can expect after your attorney has filed a notice of appeal with the court.
1. Notice Submitted to the Clerk
The first step in the DWI appeals process is submitting a notice of the appeal and motion for a new trial. Your attorney must also help to guide the clerk to create the record that will be formally submitted to the appellate court for review. This record can include relevant information and documents from your trial. Your attorney will ask the clerk to pull certain information and photocopy it for the clerk's record.
Once the clerk has received the notice of appeal and completed the record, both will be forwarded to the Fourteenth Court of Appeals.
2. Requesting the Transcript
During an appeal, the appellate court will only consider a very narrow scope of information. This will include the transcript from your trial.
Your attorney must contact the court reporter and request that a copy of the transcript is sent directly to the appropriate Appellate Division. You will be responsible for the cost of the transcript, which can be costly. In many cases, the cost of a transcript can range from between $1,500 and $5,000, depending on length.
3. Drafting an Appellate Brief
Your attorney has the opportunity to draft a legal brief that will be considered by the justices on appeal. This brief will address any legal issue that can be brought up on appeal. Grounds for an appeal can include:
- Juror misconduct
- Prosecutorial misconduct
- Failure to suppress tainted evidence
- Violations of your Constitutional rights, or
- Misapplication of the law.
4. Appellate Review
In Houston, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals is comprised of eight associate justices and a Chief Justice. This panel will be tasked with reviewing the appellate record. This includes:
- Clerk's record (i.e., relevant information requested by an attorney)
- Reporter's record (i.e., court transcript), and
- Legal briefs.
The appellate justices will not review issues of fact. Issues of fact are those that are based on circumstances and evidence. Instead, it will review the record (and any issues preserved for appeal) for strictly legal issues. Legal issues, or questions of law, have to do with the criminal process and the court's application of legal principles
5. Oral Arguments
An appeal is not a new trial. However, the appellate justices may ask the state and your attorney to appear for oral arguments. This is an opportunity for your attorney to address the appellate division and answer any questions the panel may have.
6. Appellate Decision
Once the court has reviewed the appellate record, it will determine if there is sufficient reason to believe the conviction was granted in error. The official decision will be presented in a written opinion.
What Happens If My Texas DWI Appeal is Granted?
If the appeal is granted, your conviction will be vacated. However, this doesn't mean that the criminal process is over. The State will have the opportunity to schedule a new trial. It can also decline to retry the case. Your fate will depend on the State's confidence in its ability to convict again.
What Happens If My Texas DWI Appeal is Denied?
If the appeal is denied, you do have the right to ask for another appeal. A second request for an appeal can be submitted to the State's highest court, the Court of Criminal Appeals. This is typically reserved for felony DWI convictions or where there is clear evidence of a wrongful conviction.
What happens if your appeal with the Court of Criminal Appeals is denied? In most cases, your conviction will stick. However, you may still have the ability to contest the conviction by filing a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. This can be appropriate if the State violated your Constitutional rights or the State justices did not apply federal law correctly.
When Should I Appeal My Houston DWI Conviction?
You have the right to appeal any criminal conviction in Texas. However, it is important to remember that appeals will only be successful if the appellate court can identify a legal issue that may have affected the outcome of your case. If you believe that any of the following issues may have impacted your criminal DWI case, you should consider an appeal:
- Illegal vehicle stop
- Unwarranted blood draw
- Improper administration of field sobriety tests
- Police misconduct
- Illegal search and seizure
- Mishandling of state evidence
- Court failed to suppress evidence obtained in violation of your fundamental rights
- Court failed to sustain a valid objection made by your attorney during the trial
- Intentional suppression of exculpatory (or helpful) evidence
- Other prosecutorial misconduct
- Juror misconduct
- Failure of the judge to recuse themselves, when appropriate
- Misapplication of a state or federal law, or
- Procedural mistakes.
Any procedural issue, Constitutional violation, or question of law can be grounds for a DWI appeal. It's important to remember that a successful appeal doesn't mean you're off the hook. Instead, the state will have another opportunity to try its criminal DWI case against you. However, the state may not be confident that it will get a conviction the second time around. Your attorney will also have a more nuanced understanding of the situation and have the opportunity to revise the strategy for trial.
Houston DWI Criminal Appeal Attorney
Have you been convicted of DWI in Houston? Do you believe that the court has made a mistake? You may want to consider an appeal. While an appeal can be expensive and time-consuming, it can also help to protect you from the consequences of a criminal DWI conviction.
If you're serious about an appeal it is important to have the help of an experienced DWI defense attorney. Contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. to schedule a free consultation and learn more.