Step One - The Notice of Appeal
In order to begin an appeal, a defendant must file, through their attorney, a notice of appeal. The notice must be filed within 30 days of the original conviction in order to be valid. If the defendant believes there is any reason to file an appeal, it must be done during this time.
Step Two - The Appeal
After the appeal has been filed, it goes to the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court. Winning an appeal can result in one of three actions. If the appeal is granted on the basis of a procedural error, a new trial can be granted, giving the defendant another chance. More rarely, an appeal can be granted on the basis of insufficient evidence. This results in a reversal of judgement, and the case is dismissed and cannot be retried. Finally, the appeal can fail, at which point the defendant can appeal again.
Step Three - The Court of Appeals
A failed appeal can be sent to the New York State Court of Appeals, the highest criminal court in the state. This court chooses which cases it hears, and appeals at this level are only rarely granted. In addition, the Court of Appeals can only grant an appeal on the basis of law; not the basis of fact.
Step Four - The Supreme Court of the United States
If the Court of Appeals refuses to hear the case, or if the appeal fails, then the case can be brought to the United States Supreme Court. Like the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court chooses which cases it hears, and will only involve itself in cases that involve part of the United States Constitution.
In the event that an appeal fails, a defendant may have to begin serving their sentence. However, if new evidence comes to light, they can ask for a new trial. A new trial can only be granted if the evidence was discovered after the trial; if the evidence could not have been discovered by the defendant during the original trial; and if the evidence recognizably increases the defendant’s chance at winning the case. If a judge grants the defendant’s petition, then the entire process can start again.