Criminal Appeal in Rhode Island
A criminal appeal may arise from a variety of situations. Attorney Grasso has represented clients with appeals before the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, District Courts, Superior Courts, and the Rhode Island Supreme Court. He has also prepared and argued appeals before the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals, Department of Defense, Defense Legal Services Agency.
The three more common types of criminal appeals arise from the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, District Court, and Superior Court. What follows is a very basic explanation of an appeal process.
If you lose a hearing at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal for a traffic offense, such as refusal to submit to a breathalyzer, you may appeal to the Appeals Panel of the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal. You must prepare a memorandum of law outlining the case below, stating your legal issue(s), and arguing why the Appeals Panel should reverse the hearing judge’s decision. You are also entitled to make an oral argument before the Panel in support of your memorandum. If your appeal to the Appeals Panel is unsuccessful, you may appeal the Panel’s decision to a single judge of the District Court.
If you lose a criminal trial at the District Court, you are entitled to a de novo trial in the Superior Court. A de novo trial entitles you to a brand new trial. In other words, you are not arguing that the district court judge who ruled against you erred. Instead, you get to start over again with a brand new trial either before a judge or jury. Whether you choose a trial before a judge or a trial before a jury, your second trial will take place in the Superior Court.
If you lose a criminal trial in the Superior Court, you are entitled to an appeal before the Rhode Island Supreme Court. In most cases, an appeal before the Rhode Island Supreme Court is limited to alleged errors made during the trial. Generally, issues not raised during your criminal trial are not subject to review by the Rhode Island Supreme Court. An appeal before the Rhode Island Supreme Court requires intense legal research and writing and may involve an oral argument before the Court.
All criminal appeals, like criminal trials, should be carefully handled by competent legal counsel.