If you're convicted of a criminal offense you have a right to appeal to the Maine Supreme Court, which sits as the Law Court when considering appeals. An appeal is not an opportunity to re-argue your case at trial. The Court will not, except in rare circumstances, reconsider the facts that were presented at the trial. Instead, the Court will only consider whether legal decisions made by the trial court were correct. For this reason, the Court will only consider issues that the trial court itself considered. For practical purposes, therefore, your appeal starts in the trial court; you must make sure all possible legal issues are “preserved” so that, should you be convicted, the Law Court is able to look at those issues.
After filing a notice of appeal, your attorney will have a short period of time to file a “brief” arguing your case. The brief is a written argument that addresses some of the issues presented at trial. The rules limit the length of a brief, therefore not all issues raised at trial can be presented to the Law Court.
After your brief is filed, the State will be provided an opportunity to respond. Finally, as the party appealing, your attorney will reply to the State’s response. The Law Court will decide whether or not to hold oral argument. Oral argument will typically be held in a case that presents complex legal issues, or raises a new or important question of law. Unlike trial, you are not required to be present at your appeal. Rather, your attorney will appear before the Court and will present your case. The Court will ask the attorney questions, and then the State will do the same. The Court will not decide the case then and there, but will issue a written opinion after a few months.
A criminal appeal is a very different proceeding from a trial. It is important to have the help of an attorney who is skilled in selecting the best issues in your case, is able to write a persuasive brief, and is able to persuasively argue before the Court on your behalf.