Courts have different purposes. An appellate court is any court of law able to hear a case on appeal from a lower courts’ ruling. To fully understand what an appellate court is and how it works, let’s take a look at sample case.

A defendant, the person on trial, has his/her case started in trial court with an arraignment. This is the time in which a plea of guilty or not guilty is entered into the court documents and a trial is set.

Criminal court cases are heard with a jury of 12 of your peers and they will decided if the evidence presented is enough to provide reasonable doubt and set you free, or if they find you guilty. If the verdict is guilt then the judge in the case has the power to determine punishment. In some cases this is time served, sentencing of minimal time in prison or even community service.

The appellate court is where your lawyer files to have your case heard if you believe the lower court came to the wrong conclusion. The appellate court will determine if the lower court decision was correct or not. The ruling from the appellate court comes from judges rather than a jury though. Lower level appellate courts like the Iowa Court of Appeals or the Federal Circuit Appellate Courts will her most appeals. The highest levels of appeals courts like the Iowa Supreme Court or the US Supreme Court hear very few cases though.

While the defense attorney will argue why the lower court decision should be changed, the prosecutor will argue why it shouldn’t. This means the prosecutor is arguing that the case was handled correctly and all evidence was presented.

It is important to note that the appellate court does not wish to overturn the decision of the lower court. This means the argument to appeal must be compelling and legally justified. For further explanation of legal justification, seek advice for your attorney.

In criminal cases, if the verdict is not guilty, the prosecutor cannot appeal the decision.