St. Mary's Law Journal


This Article guides Texas practitioners in effectively preparing and presenting criminal cases on appeal. Its primary focus concerns the standards of review appellate courts use in determining the merits of the issues raised before them and, equally important, proper preservation and presentation of those issues. This Article does not exhaust the matters which may be raised on appeal in a criminal case. Rather, it covers a variety of issues and errors commonly raised in the “ordinary” criminal appeal. Understanding and utilizing this information in the presentation of issues on appeal will help the practitioner direct the appellate court to find reversible error where it does exist and lead to the result which justice requires. Presenting an effective appeal begins long before the brief is filed. Preserving error at trial is crucial, as is determining which forum the matter should be addressed in and the form in which the issue should be presented. Determining the issues which offer the greatest possibility of relief is equally as important. These decisions require understanding the various standards of review the appellate courts employ to decide whether error occurred and whether the error is reversible. Recognizing and concentrating on the issues which are preserved, demonstrating error under the appropriate standard, and demonstrating harm, will save counsel time and increase the client’s chance of obtaining the requested relief. The practitioner who grasps the legal concepts set forth in this Article and applies them to the facts of each case will be well-equipped to guide and persuade the appellate court in its own application of the law to reach the desired result. In this way, more criminal appeals may become instruments of justice rather than exercises in futility.


St. Mary's University School of Law