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Someone who has been convicted of driving under the influence can appeal his or her conviction. When a defendant appeals a conviction, he or she is requesting that a higher appellate court review the case for legal or procedural errors that may have occurred. If the higher court agrees with the petitioner, the conviction may be reversed and the case will be sent back to the trial court.
There are two different ways that a DUI conviction may occur. A person can plead guilty or no contest to DUI or a person can go to trial and can be found guilty by a judge or jury. Usually, a defendant will appeal a guilty conviction following a trial. Defendants who consciously plead guilty or no contest to DUI or any other offense would have to show that his or her plea was not knowing or intelligent or that the defendant was not informed of certain rights or consequences of the plea. It is more common to see appeals that are filed following a guilty conviction at trial.
There are a number of issues that can be raised in a DUI appeal. An appeal in a DUI case can challenge a conviction for procedural or substantive issues with the case. Procedural issues include errors that may have occurred during the plea or prosecutorial misconduct during the defendant’s trial. Substantive issues include a denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence pursuant to California Penal Code Section 1538.5 or motions to exclude statements or confessions made by a defendant to law enforcement.
The appeals process is governed by strict rules and timelines. If the defendant misses the deadline to appeal a DUI conviction, the appellate court may refuse to consider the appeal. The defendant would prepare and submit an appellate brief that would address the various issues and arguments of law in favor of reversing the conviction. The prosecution would have a chance to prepare their own brief in response to the defendant’s opening brief. The defendant (or “appellant”) is given an opportunity to rebut the People’s argument.
After briefs have been submitted, the parties will appear before the appellate panel for oral arguments. The case may be heard by the Court of Appeals or in Los Angeles County the misdemeanor may be heard by the Superior Court’s Appellate Division. Usually, a panel of three appellate judges is convened and both parties are given a chance to argue the appeal. The judges can question the parties about their briefs and the arguments presented.
The appellate court will review a complete record of the plea or trial proceedings and will consider this when determining whether or not to grant the appeal. Following oral arguments, the appellate court will issue a decision either affirming or reversing the conviction. If the conviction is affirmed, the defendant can appeal the case to the Court of Appeals (if the Superior Court handled the appeal) or to the California Supreme Court. If the conviction is reversed, the matter will be returned to the trial court for further proceedings.