As a criminal defense lawyer, appealing convictions form a municipal court
is something which I have done on numerous occasions. Usually, I am appealing
cases to the
Johnson County District Court from city courts like
Overland Park, and
Lenexa, KS. It is not difficult to appeal a case from a city court, as the Kansas
statute is clear that the District court has jurisdiction and there is
De Novo review. To appeal, you simply file the notice of appeal and usually
pay a nominal appeal bond. In other words, if a person is convicted in
a municipal court or if they want to appeal even the sentencing, the defendant
ha an automatic right to appeal. However, the notice of appeal must be
timely filed. I can't tell you how many people have called me requesting
that I handle an appeal for them, and unfortunately they were out of time.
Upon an appeal from the city court, not only does the case start over,
now in District Court (Circuit Court if you are in Missouri), there is
now a District Judge presiding over the case. Additionally, you now have
the option to request a jury trial, assuming the charge isn't some
minor issue like a speeding ticket. While most all criminal cases are
appealable from the city court, to the District Court, some things are
not. For example, probation revocations supposedly aren't appealable
to the district Court. However, it is conceivably still appealable to
the Court of Appeals. I am unaware whether this has actually been attempted.
It would be very interesting though and I have come close to doing it
on a few occasions.
Appealing a case from District Court to the Appeals Court is more difficult
than appealing from the municipal courts. In fact, after a district court
conviction, you don't even necessarily have a right to bond during
the appeal process, which could potentially take years! I find this fact
troubling. The District judge could simply deny bond after you are convicted,
utilizing his or her own discretion. However, judges generally utilize
wise discretion when allowing or disallowing bond. In any event, it is
clear, from cases going back to the 1800's, that the trial judge does
have authority to grant an appeal bond. This is so, even if the prosecution
objects to it. If the judge denies an appeal bond or sets it at an unreasonably
exorbitant amount, there is potential relief. Kansas law grants authority
for the appeals court to grant a bond.
What if it is the prosecutor who appeals? Are you allowed automatic bond?
It depends. Kansas law states that during the pendency of an appeal by
the prosecution, the defendant shall be released, not held in custody,
and not even be subject to bond. However, the Kansas statute goes on to
provide exceptions when the defendant may be held, even upon the prosecutor's
appeal. That exception is for higher level felonies.
As a trial lawyer, I especially enjoy appealing cases from municipal courts,
where I can then have a jury trial. However, I don't especially enjoy
appeals to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court as it is more paperwork
and less trial litigation.