And What Happens If You Miss the Deadline?
In most criminal and civil cases, there are many court orders issued. These are “interlocutory” (temporary) orders to move a case to a final order and are not normally appealed. There are provisions to appeal certain “interlocutory” orders1 as a matter of right (during trial court proceeding) and by the discretion of the trial court (an order trial court must certify the interlocutory order for appeal and the Court of Appeals has to then accept the appeal). This blog addresses and identifies what constitutes a final order and what happens if you “blow” the deadline to appeal a final order.
In felony criminal cases, the conviction by a judge or jury is not normally a final appealable order. This is because the sentencing has not yet occurred, and the sentence itself can be appealed. In fact, the Court of Appeals has a special rule of appellate procedure to allow review of sentences and may reverse a sentence if it finds to be too harsh or lenient, namely “the sentence is inappropriate in light of the nature of the offense and the character of the offender.”2 In fact, the sentencing may be well after the conviction because courts often order presentence investigations to assist them in crafting an appropriate sentence. The take away from this blog commentary is the time to file a Notice of Appeal begins at sentencing.
With civil cases, the final appealable order sometimes may be hard to determine, particularly if there are multiple legal issues and the trial court does not decide them all at the same time in the same order. Normally, this is not a final appealable order because the right to appeal occurs when an order “disposes of all claims as to all parties.” Does the order dispose of all issues as to all parties? If not, an appeal may not be ripe—it’s premature.
Also, certain civil cases routinely issue what appear to be final orders, such as CHINS cases. For instance, with a CHINS filing there is an initial hearing and ultimately what is akin to a trial, which is a fact-finding. However, the determination from the fact-finding is not normally the final order. Instead, it is the disposition where the court determines the next steps in the child’s placement, care, treatment or rehabilitation and the nature and extent of the parent’s, custodian’s, or guardian’s role in fulfilling those steps.3 This is like a sentencing in a criminal case, but there have been conflicting cases with the Appellate rules on when this right begins. A premature or untimely appeal forfeits the right to appeal. For this reason, a person seeking a civil appeal must exercise great care in determining when to timely file the Notice of Appeal.
This may leave you asking the question, “What happens if I miss the appellate deadline?” The answer is—it depends. It is important to know that “blowing” a deadline does not deprive the Indiana Appellate Courts of jurisdiction, but rather, forfeits the party’s right to appeal. The Appellate Courts still have jurisdiction to entertain a premature or belated appeal.
With criminal cases, there is a mechanism to request a trial court to approve a belated appeal. The reason is that a criminal felony conviction strips a party of core civil liberties and may result in the deprivation of freedom through incarceration. In addition to belated appeals, there may be other ways to challenge a criminal conviction at a later time.
Civil cases are a different story; generally, missing the appellate deadline forfeits the case. The Indiana Appellate Courts may deviate from their rules in civil cases as well4 and take jurisdiction of such a civil, but rarely do so to take a premature or late filing for an appeal. This sometimes occurs when fundamental rights are at issue, such as a parent’s right to raise his or her child.5 Thus, it is critical to properly determine a final order and timely file a Notice of Appeal. There is little to no relief otherwise in the civil realm.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle civil and criminal appeals from all Indiana trial courts. We hope this blog helps you understand your appellate rights. This blog is written for general informational purposes. It is not intended as legal advice, nor is it a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.