Do I Have the Grounds for a Criminal Appeal in Colorado?

If you have received an unfavorable result in criminal court in Colorado or federal court and are considering an appeal, there are three critical factors that should be understood: The Purpose of the Appellate Courts, the Timing for Appeals, and the Grounds for Appeal.

The Purpose of Appellate Courts for Criminal Matters

Appellate courts are very different from trial courts. Appellate courts will not re-litigate an adverse outcome. This is a common mistake made by less experienced counsel. Instead, the function of appellate courts – both state and federal– is to examine potential errors made by the trial court, and to determine what corrective action can and should be taken.

Determining a Valid and Winnable Grounds for an Appeal

Arguing appellate issues is a specialized area of law. While most attorneys can determine if a mistake was made at trial, it takes experience to “frame” the issue in a way that provides the appellant the greatest chances for success on appeal.  While criminal appeals must be based upon a legally-recognizable basis (otherwise, the appeal will not be heard), that is not enough. Instead, the issue must be argued under the best “standard of review,” and in a way that gets the appellate court’s attention.  This requires an experienced appellate attorney.

Common Grounds for Appeals

While there are far too many grounds for appeal to be described here, there are several common grounds, including:

  • Misapplication of the law.  Sometimes courts fail to apply the proper standards or law to cases, such as giving improper jury instructions or failing to apply proper case law.
  • Allowing the introduction of inadmissible evidence.  In some cases, evidence is improperly introduced against a defendant and must be challenged.
  • Judge or juror bias.  Sometimes, after a trial has started, judge or juror bias that previously was not known is discovered. Additionally, sometimes the judge will improperly disallow a challenge to a particular juror or jurors sitting on the case.
  • Ineffective counsel. This appeal is typically based upon a defendant being deprived of his or her Sixth Amendment right to adequate representation because of significant shortcomings in the representation provided by defense counsel.

I have represented clients in more than 150 criminal appeals, including before the United States Supreme Court, and advised on 1000+ more cases. I carefully review my clients’ cases for these and dozens of other issues to determine whether one or more grounds for an appeal exists, and the best way to argue the case before the appeals court.

Timing – When Do Criminal State Court Appeals Need to be Filed in Colorado?

If your appealing a criminal conviction from a Colorado state trial court, a notice of  appeal must be filed very quickly after the entry of judgment in your case.  If you appeal a District Court conviction to the Colorado Court of Appeals, you must file a notice of appeal within 49 days of the entry of judgment in your case.[1]  If you appeal a County Court conviction to the District Court, you must file your notice of appeal within 35 days of the entry of judgment in you case.[2]

You can also appeal a conviction or sentence through what is called a “collateral attack.” For more information on this type of appeal, click here.

In addition to appealing from a trial court matter, appeals can also be filed from an adverse ruling in the Colorado Court of Appeals (to the Colorado Supreme Court), and from the Colorado Supreme Court (to the United States Supreme Court). There are also important deadlines that must be met in these appeals; otherwise, the right to appeal may be lost.

Federal Court Appeals in Colorado

Federal criminal convictions in the federal District of Colorado may be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and, from there, to the Supreme Court of the United States.  A Notice of Appeal for most federal cases must be made within 14 days[3] of the federal trial court ruling, and the appeal itself must be made thereafter.

My Experience in Criminal Appeals

As a criminal defense appellate attorney, I have personally represented more than 150 clients in criminal appeals.  Because of my experience in criminal appeals, I was hired by a federal appeals judge to be his senior legal advisor. If you have received an adverse outcome at trial, please call me to learn how I can help you.


[1] Colorado Appellate Rule (C.A.R.) 4

[2] C.R.S. 16-2-114

[3] Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rule 4.