Florida Bar Certified Criminal Appellate Lawyer
Michael Ufferman is board certified in criminal appellate law and considered an expert in criminal appeals.
Prior to 2021, a defendant convicted in county court could appeal only to the circuit court. This procedure resulted in criminal defendants receiving disparate treatment depending on which part of the state his or her county court conviction arose. In some counties, these county-to-circuit court appeals resulted in the judgment being considered by a panel of three circuit court judges – which is the normal type of review for an appellate proceeding. But in other parts of the state, single circuit court judges were assigned to these appeals – and many times the same judge was assigned to handle the entire appellate docket of the county (meaning that there would be no random assignment – as is the norm with appeals).
But as of the new year, that will change. During the 2020 legislative session, the Florida Legislature amended section 26.012, Florida Statutes, and eliminated circuit court jurisdiction over county court criminal judgments. Effective January 1, 2021, county court criminal judgments will now be appealed directly to the district court of appeal located in the jurisdiction of the county in question. See ch. 2020‑61, Laws of Fla. This means that every criminal defendant in Florida will now be afforded the full benefit of the normal appellate process – i.e., a random panel of three appellate judges to properly consider the issues on appeal. The new law will also eliminate other problems that resulted from the county-to-circuit court appellate system, such as a lack of reporting and searchability of the circuit court appellate decisions and confusion caused by conflicting decisions within and between circuits.