Zach Stock May 15, 2015

Are you considering a criminal appeal in Indiana? Here are five things you need to know.

You have an absolute right to an appeal.

The judge and your trial attorney have probably informed you of your rights, but this is worth repeating: You have the right to one direct appeal. This includes the right to court appointed counsel when you cannot afford to hire your own attorney. However, if you have pleaded guilty, you may have given up this right.

You must act quickly.

A document called a Notice of Appeal must be filed within 30 days of your conviction and sentence. If you do not file a Notice of Appeal, you might loose your second chance forever.

Do not think that every error will get you a new trial.

An appellate court will typically not consider any errors that were not objected to at trial. There are exceptions but not many. Also, many errors will be considered harmless if the evidence of guilt is strong or the error was not prejudicial.

If you think your defense attorney made mistakes, now is not the time to make that claim.

What happens if your attorney did not object to something you feel was wrong or unfair? The guide just said that such errors can deprive you of appellate review. You can argue that your trial attorney was ineffective, but that type of claim should be made in a petition for post-conviction relief, and that is a topic for a different guide. Suffice it to say, a claim that your attorney was ineffective will almost certainly never be successful on direct appeal. Moreover, if you make the claim and lose, you might never be able to make the claim again.

You can almost always challenge the appropriateness of your sentence.

The Indiana Constitution gives you the right to have an appellate court review your sentence. This is not true if you have agreed to a sentence in a plea agreement, but in every other case an appellate court will look at the appropriateness of your sentence. Just be careful. There are circumstances that allow the court to increase your sentence when they feel that the trial judge was too lenient.