A person who has been convicted of a crime after either a plea or trial has a very limited amount of time to file an appeal of his or her conviction. In Florida the necessary paperwork must be filed no later than 30 days from the date of conviction. The criminal appeals process has a very strict set of rules which must be followed in order to preserve the ability of the accused to have a higher court review the lower court’s findings. Although some individuals may try to handle their own appeal, this is extremely risky, and the courts will not give advice or instruction regarding the process. Florida appellate courts have strict filing guidelines which must be followed, and failure to follow those rules may very well result in the appeal being dismissed. It is one area of law that an attorney experienced in criminal appeals is absolutely necessary.
In the Florida state court system there are two classifications of crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. A person who has a misdemeanor crime will be in county court, whereas a person with a felony charge will be in circuit court. In misdemeanor cases, the appeal is normally filed with the circuit court of the jurisdiction where the crime occurred, with a few exceptions. In felony cases, the appeal is filed with the District Court of Appeals. The 30 day rule for filing the appeal is the same in both misdemeanor and felony cases.
For felony cases Florida has five separate District Court of Appeals, as the map on the right shows. For Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto county felony cases, also known as the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, the District Court of Appeals which has jurisdiction is the Second District Court of Appeals, which is located in Lakeland, Florida. This court is commonly referred to as the Second DCA. The Second DCA is comprised by the counties highlighted in green. Jurisdiction on felony criminal appeals is determined by where the crime occurred. The map indicates which District Court of Appeals has jurisdiction for each county in Florida.