The most important type of error is constitutional error. For example, the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution says that (with exceptions) the police cannot seize evidence from you without a warrant. The police seize drugs from you without a warrant (and one of the exceptions to the warrant rule does not apply). You are convicted for possession of a controlled substance. A basis for your appeal would be the violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Recently, a good source of error has been the jury charge—the document that the judge prepares for the jury instructing them how to decide your guilt or innocence and your sentence. For example, if the judge refuses your request to include a lesser included offense in the jury charge, that could be the basis for an appeal.
To appeal an error made during trial, the error must be “preserved.” Preserving error during trial basically means that your trial lawyer objected to the judge’s decision in a timely manner. The objection must also be recorded by the court reporter. A direct appeal usually only consists of objections found in the trial record.
There are fourteen courts of appeals in Texas. An appeal from a trial court will go to one of them depending on your region. Because of its large size, Houston has two courts of appeals.
If you lose at the Court of Appeals, you may appeal to the highest court in the state—the Court of Criminal Appeals. Such an appeal is known as a petition for discretionary review.
Finally, if you lose at the Court of Criminal Appeals and your case contains a federal question, you may appeal the United States Supreme Court.
There are strict deadlines for the direct appeal. You must give formal notice to the trial court of your intent to appeal within thirty days of receiving your sentence. A motion for new trial expands the deadline to ninety days. A motion for new trial must be filed within thirty days of the sentence.
While your appeal is pending, you are eligible for an appeal bond if your sentence was less than ten years and not for an aggravated felony.