If you’ve been convicted at trial, you must first file a notice or motion to file an appeal. Normally, you have thirty days from sentencing in Louisiana to do this notice. Then the trial court will set a deadline for the record to be compiled and sent to the appellate court.
Once the record is “lodged,” you will then receive a briefing schedule from the appellate court setting dates for when your appellate brief is due. In a Louisiana state criminal appeal, you are entitled to receive an oral argument hearing but you must ask for it according to the right procedure.
When you file your appeal, you will fill it to one of five courts of appeal in Louisiana based on where your trial took place. If you lose or the state loses in the court of appeal, a writ of certiorari may be taken to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
The Louisiana Supreme Court may, but is not required to, hear your case. They can simply refuse to accept and hear the case and that exhausts your remedies in the Louisiana appellate court system.
In your appeal, you are seeking to show what errors were made during the trial phase. Not only must you show that an error of law or fact was committed, but that the error had an appreciable effect on the outcome of your case. This is what is known as the “harmless error” rule in Louisiana criminal cases.
The harmless error rule often results in Louisiana appellate decisions where the appellate court concludes that an error was committed but finds it to be “harmless” and does not grant you any relief. In other words, the appellate court finds that correcting the error still would not have affected your case given the other evidence against you. Thus, to get relief on appeal you must demonstrate that an error was committed and that the error affected the outcome of your case.
Appellate courts also show deference to credibility determinations made at the trial court level. For example, if a witness testifies and the jury found the witness to be credible, the appellate court will not overturn that determination, even if you personally disagree with that determination, absent a clear and manifest error. Overall, courts can be reluctant to reverse criminal convictions or reduce sentences imposed by district court judges.