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Criminal Appeals in State Courts

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2015
17 pages
This report presents comprehensive data on criminal appeals in U.S. State courts for 2010.

Describes the characteristics of criminal appeals resolved in state appellate courts in 2010. The report provides information on variations from state to state in court structures for handling criminal appeals. It includes estimates of the number of criminal appeals resolved in state courts in 2010, by type of case, whether the state or the defendant petitioned the court, severity of the offense, level of appellate court (intermediate or last resort), and final outcomes. It tracks reversal rates for the top ten issues commonly addressed on appeal and reversal rates by the most serious offense in the underlying trial case. The report examines variations in case processing times by type of court, court structure, and whether or not the court reviewed the case on its merits. It also compares death penalty appeals with other appeals cases on these factors. Findings are based on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics' 2010 Survey of State Court Criminal Appeals, in which a sample of appeals were selected from the 143 state appellate courts with criminal jurisdiction.

  • In 2010, an estimated 69,348 criminal appeals were resolved in the 143 state appellate courts with criminal jurisdiction. „„
  • In 2010, 38 states had both intermediate appellate courts and courts of last resort, while 12 states had courts of last resort only. 
  • „Of the cases reviewed on the merits, 81% were affirmed. In more than half (52%) of all appeals, the appellate court upheld the trial court decision. „„
  • About 2% of all intermediate appellate court appeals were subsequently reviewed by the court of last resort. „„
  • The most common legal issue appellate courts addressed was sufficiency of evidence (15%), followed by excessive or inconsistent sentencing (10%).

Date Published: September 1, 2015