An appeal of a DUI conviction may be the right option for you depending on the circumstances of your individual case. Most DUI defendants who are found guilty accept plea deals in exchange for a lesser charge or a lesser penalty. A defendant may agree to enter a rehabilitative program or probation in order to dodge jail time or other harsher sentences. To that end, convicted offenders are usually resigned to the final judgment as it is difficult to disprove a chemical or breathalyzer test. However, the biggest question before a potential appellant is whether the the appeal is even worth it. They should engage in a legal and cost-benefit analysis to arrive at the decision.
Conduct a Preliminary “Worthiness” Evaluation with an Attorney
The first step in the DUI appeals process is determining whether an appeal is right in your particular case. Not all DUI convictions are created equally. This evaluation is best conducted by an experienced DUI appeals attorney. The attorney must determine whether the case possesses the legal issues necessary to survive the initial steps before an appeals court. As a corollary analysis, the defendant must determine whether there is a likelihood of success in relation to the financial burden of the appellate case. In other words, what is the likelihood that the financial investment will breed success? This cost-benefit analysis is important as appeals can become rather costly due to the specialized nature of the proceeding. The legal and the financial analysis usually go hand-in-hand to determine if the case is worth the overall cost.
Know the Appellate Process in Mississippi
A DUI offender who is found guilty in Mississippi’s Justice or Municipal Courts has the right to file an appeal to a county court or a circuit court (if there exists no county court in the jurisdiction). Mississippi court procedure requires filing a notice of appeal to the higher court (county or circuit court) within 30 days of the final judgment from the lower court (Rule 12.02). The defendant must accompany the filing with a cost bond and an appearance bond. The appearance bond is approved and determined by the circuit court. The cost bond constitutes normal court costs and the appearance bond ensures that the defendant will appear in court as scheduled.
Similarly, an appeal from a county court to a circuit court requires filing notice within 30 days of the final judgment. The filling must accompany an appearance bond. Thereafter, a brief is filed and if the court decides, the court may order oral arguments. The defendant's case will receive de novo review. De novo review is without bias toward the outcome of the previous case. Therefore, the court will review the appellate case with “fresh eyes.”
Select Your Grounds for Appeal
There are some common grounds for appealing a criminal conviction. They are based on legal, procedural, or evidentiary error. Legal error gets to the core of the conviction. In other words, a finding of legal error can lead to a case being thrown out completely. One example in a DUI case is the inaccurate calculation of the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Procedural error can implicate court process and evidentiary error implicates constitutional rights. An example of procedural error can implicate improper filing of police records. Evidentiary error often deals with arguments for suppression of evidence due to improper rulings made in the lower court.
Appealing a DUI case is an ambitious endeavor. You need to consult with an experienced attorney to determine whether an appeal is reasonable in your case. Such a determination requires detailed knowledge of legal, procedural, and evidentiary issues as well as knowledge of the Mississippi court system. Contact Attorney James Robert Ferguson now for a consultation.