Appellate Process in Illinois

The criminal appellate process in Illinois can be long and complex. Perhaps the most significant step is the first, which requires a timely filed notice of appeal. The requirements for filing this document are strictly enforced and failure to do so can result in the forfeit of the right to a direct appeal of the criminal conviction or sentence.

Once the notice of appeal is filed, the next step of the process usually involves compiling the common law record, transcripts from trial court proceedings, and other important documents and exhibits. At this point, the docketing statement must also be filed in order to inform the appellate court of the intent to appeal, potential issues that may be raised, and to demonstrate that the process of gathering all these materials from the trial court has begun.

The appellant, or party moving to reverse the outcome in the trial court, will later file the opening brief. This brief will usually contain a lengthy discussion of what transpired in the trial court. It will also outline what the appellant thinks were the points  of error in the trial court. In most cases, the appellant will also request an oral argument. Finally, the brief will contain an appendix which will include relevant orders, decisions, or other exhibits which are critical to the outcome of the appeal.

Once this brief has been filed, the other party, the appellee, will respond with a brief of its own. The appellant will then have one final time to respond in writing in a brief called the reply brief. If an oral argument is granted, the appellant and appellee will appear before a panel of judges in the appellate court for a further discussion of the issues. The oral argument will not involve calling witnesses or a re-trial, but instead is more of a question and answer type of proceeding with the judges and counsel for the opposing parties.

Following the oral argument, the appellate court will issue a written decision. This entire process usually takes at least six months to a year, but can result in the conviction being overturned, a new trial, reduction in sentence, or any other remedy the appellate court deems appropriate.

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