Kansas Appeals and Appeal Bonds

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 Olathe, 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.