In Indiana, every litigant who does not prevail or loses a civil or criminal case in a trial court is entitled to an appeal as a matter of right. This is guaranteed by the Indiana Constitution. As a general rule, all appeals go directly to the Indiana Court of Appeals.
This Court is located in Indianapolis and comprised of 15 judges who deicide cases in 3 judge panels. There are three types of legal issues that make for the best type of appeal.
- Questions of first impression: In the criminal or civil realm, fact situations come before courts that have not been considered before. In other words, the criminal charge or civil action may or may not be one that is actionable in court. Where this is the case, a party may ask the Court of Appeals to apply certain rules, which are called rules of construction, to the case to decide the matter for that case and future cases. These are strong issues for appeal.
- Question of law: Sometimes there are cases where it is unclear what law, if any, applies. While trial courts are given great deference to judge the character of live witnesses, higher courts do not give such deference to questions of law. This is what law applies to a situation. If this is incorrect, the Court of Appeals does not give deference to the trial court and will reverse to apply the correct law or legal standard.
- Criminal sentences: Given that imprisonment is one of the greatest forms of deprivation of liberty, the Indiana Court of Appeals is given the authority to consider and revise sentences. Although rarely done, it does not hesitate to revise a sentence where it is appropriate.
Having said this, asking the Court of Appeals to reweigh the facts (not the law or sentence) is not as strong of an appeal. The Court of Appeals may reverse based on the facts, but the brief and record evidence must leave the Court of Appeals with a firm conviction a mistake has been made.
We hope this blog post provides you with general education about Indiana’s legal system and the rights available to you. If so, it has met it goal. This is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for legal services. This blog was written by Ciyou & Dixon attorneys who handle appeals from Indiana trial courts.