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What is the difference between a trial and an appeal?

When dealing with matters of civil law, a trial and an appeal are not the same thing. Typically, an appeal comes after a trial court or jury has already made a decision. While the law being considered is the same in both cases, the processes for trials and appeals can be very different.

During a trial, parties to the matter present their cases in court. The information is heard either by a judge, a panel of judges or a jury, depending on the nature of the case. Evidence can include witness testimony, documents, photographs, diaries, videos and other items. A judge typically oversees the presentation of evidence, even if he or she is not the deciding factor in the trial.

At the end of the trial, or hearing, depending again on the type of legal matter, either the judge or jury reviews the evidence and makes a decision. That decision is entered as a matter of record with the court.

At that time in most cases, any party to the original trial has an option to appeal the decision if they don't agree with it. There are some unique legal cases where appeals are not allowed, such as with binding arbitration agreements.

An appeal is not another trial. Instead, it is a review of the original decision entered by the lower level court. That means that appeals decisions cannot be made based on new factors, although an appellate court can sometimes decide that the trial court failed to consider critical evidence. Appeals processes often involve more than one judge and do not always involve oral testimony or presentation. Some appeals processes are handled entirely through written briefs.

The appeals process can be difficult to navigate. Working with an attorney who is experienced with appeals can help you increase the chance of a positive outcome.

Source: FindLaw, "Appealing a Court Decision or Judgment," accessed March 04, 2016

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