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Even after a defendant is found guilty, he can appeal to the Circuit Court if he believes he was wrongly convicted or the sentence was too harsh. An appeal is not another trial but an opportunity for the defendant to try to raise specific errors that might have occurred at trial. A common appeal is that a decision from the judge was incorrect – such as whether to suppress certain evidence or to impose a certain sentence. Appeals are complicated and sometimes result in the case going back to the trial court. A specific conviction may be reversed, a sentence altered, or a new trial may be ordered altogether if the Appeals Court decides that particular course of action.
Even after an appeal is decided by a circuit court judge, a defendant can try to appeal that decision to the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
The United States Supreme Court — the highest appellate court in the American court system — makes the final decision concerning a defendant’s appeal. The Court is not required to hear an appeal in every case and takes only a small number of cases each year.