Municipal Court Appeals In Alabama

Alabama law provides for municipal court appeals which allow you as a defendant to appeal a city court conviction to a higher court.  Municipal court appeals also allow a defendant an opportunity to demand a jury trial.  In Alabama, Municipal courts, or city courts, have limited jurisdiction.  In general, a municipal court may only hear misdemeanor and violation cases which occur within the city limits or the police jurisdiction of the city.  Typically, Alabama municipalities will enact a city ordinance which adopts the Alabama State Criminal Code, thereby making the Criminal Code effective in the city.

If you violate a municipal ordinance, or if you are charged with a misdemeanor of a violation under the Alabama Criminal Code, your case is first heard in the Municipal Court.  There are a number of smaller municipalities in Alabama that do not have municipal courts.  In the case of a city which does not have a municipal court, the case will go to the local County District Court.

MUNICIPAL COURT APPEALS

If you are found guilty in a municipal court, you have the right to appeal the conviction.  Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure 30.1 provides:

A defendant convicted of an offense in a municipal court or a district court shall have the right to appeal the judgment, within fourteen (14) days of the date of the judgment or the denial of a timely filed post-judgment motion, to the circuit court for a trial de novo.

In order to make the appeal, the defendant is required to file certain specific paperwork with the clerk of the municipal court.  Part of the paperwork includes a place where the defendant may assert their right to a trial by jury.  It is very important that the paperwork be correctly filled our and filed with the correct official.  If the paperwork is not correct or if it is not filed with the correct person or at the correct time, the appeal is invalid and will be dismissed. In that case the judgment of the municipal court stands.

The best way to assure that municipal court appeals are correctly filed is to contact an Alabama criminal defense attorney at the Dearman Law Firm.  An attorney can assist you in filling out and filing the paperwork.

WHAT HAPPENS WITH ALABAMA MUNICIPAL COURT APPEALS

When municipal court appeals are filed they go to the circuit court of the county where the city is located, or if the city is located in more than one county, the county where the incident occurred.  Once the appeal is correctly filed, “perfected,” it will be set for a jury trial in the county circuit court.  An appeal from a municipal court is heard “de novo.”  This means that it is decided again in its entirety from the beginning, as if no conviction had ever taken place.

If a jury trial was properly demanded in the paperwork, the case will be decided by a jury of twelve members who must agree to a verdict unanimously.

MUNICIPAL COURT APPEALS DIRECTLY TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

On rare occasions, a municipal court appeal may bypass the trial in a circuit court, and be appealed directly to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in Montgomery.  An appeal from the district or municipal court can go directly to the appellate court where there is either an adequate record or a stipulation of facts, a trial by jury is waived, and where the case involves only questions of law and not questions of fact.  It is rare that such an appeal takes place.  However, under the right set of circumstances, it is the most effective and efficient way to have the case reviewed.

FILING MUNICIPAL COURT APPEALS

Rule 30.3 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure give instruction as to filing the actual Notice of Appeal.

(a) NOTICE OF APPEAL. A defendant may appeal from a final judgment in a criminal case entered by a municipal or a district court for trial de novo in the circuit court by filing with the clerk of the municipal or the district court a written notice of appeal within fourteen (14) days from the date of pronouncement of sentence or the date of denial of a timely filed post-trial motion, whichever is later. Notice of appeal shall be served on the prosecuting attorney by the appellant or the appellant’s attorney; provided, however, that notification to the prosecuting attorney shall not be a jurisdictional prerequisite for perfecting an appeal.

The appeal is “perfected” or becomes effective when the notice of appeal is filed and when a new bond is posted.

(b) PERFECTING APPEAL. An appeal from the municipal or the district court for trial de novo in the circuit court shall be perfected by the timely filing of a written notice of appeal and the posting of a new bond in an amount fixed by the municipal or district judge, conditioned upon the defendant’s appearance before the circuit court, as well as the payment of all costs incurred in the municipal or the district court and on appeal in the circuit court; provided, however, that the court may authorize the defendant’s release on the defendant’s personal recognizance without any undertaking relating to, or deposit of security in lieu of, an appearance and cost bond.

IF I RECEIVED JAIL TIME, CAN I BE RELEASED PENDING THE MUNICIPAL COURT APPEAL

A defendant sentenced to imprisonment and not released from custody on bond or personal recognizance may obtain release pending an appeal at any time by filing a bond approved by the municipal or the district court.

TIME LIMIT TO FILE AN APPEAL

Municipal court appeals must generally be filed within fourteen (14) days from the time the defendant is sentenced or when a property filed post-judgment motion is denied.

Appeals that go directly to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals or the Alabama Supreme Court must be filed within forty-two (42) days from the time the defendant is sentenced or when a property filed post-judgment motion is denied.