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Misdemeanor defendant appeals

Updated: Jul 16, 2019

Few defendants appeal from their convictions. In fact, prosecutors are as likely to appeal as defendants. What are the outcomes of their appeals? What factors influence outcomes.


The present research builds on and extends preliminary research conducted in a single Florida county, during a single year (n=59) that found few misdemeanor defendants appealed, the few who appealed were not advised of their right to appeal by judges, and unsurprisingly, the defendants, who appealed, were largely represented by attorneys at trial and on appeal. Important differences emerged between cases appealed by prosecutors (they were more likely to win) and defendants, and with the experience levels of the prosecutors and defenders at trial and on appeal (Smith, 2019).

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense." (Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution).

Current Project

Using unique datasets of records and transcripts from a ten-year period and an estimated 600 cases appealed from the lower courts in a single metropolitan county in Florida, the present study examines whether the preliminary study patterns hold and investigates:


(1) whether representation,


(2) the seriousness of the criminal convictions, and


(3) the issues raised on appeal


influence appellate outcomes. The present study will also explore the influence of these independent variables on appellate outcomes, while controlling for race and gender of the courtroom workgroup members, defendants' race and gender, who appealed (prosecutor or defendant), the number of prosecutor and defender practice years, the issues raised on appeal, and the defendants' sentence.


To provide context for the quantitative findings, the trial transcripts will be qualitatively examined to identify, code, and report patterns and themes on differentiated case processing and judicial determinations.

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