03 Aug 23

Appealing a Federal Court Sentence: Federal Criminal Appeals

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Last Updated on: 3rd August 2023, 06:54 pm

The trial and conviction for a federal crime has just concluded and you are waiting for sentencing. It is a good time therefore, to start considering federal criminal appeals a bit more thoroughly. Before sentencing, you are allowed one vital chance to speak and try to mitigate the seriousness of your charges while pleading for leniency. The same trial judge about to pass sentence is the one that will rule if the case can go forward to appeals. If a conviction is the result of your defense endeavor, you will have only 14 days to file the notice of appeal.

To lodge an appeal is to return to court the trial case that sentencing has been passed on; to seek redress. One must consider two things before deciding whether or not to appeal. One, if the trial court sentence is lighter than what the federal prosecutor was arguing for; he or she may launch a cross-appeal to your appeal and the resulting sentence might be much stiffer! Two, if the legal representation you have used at trial is to be retained for the appeal or a more competent defense attorney with specific appeals experience hired.

Once the trial court has passed sentence on a federal criminal case, a notice of appeal is to be filed. Expediency is advisable as this must adhere to the court system’s statute of limitations for filing an appeal notice; which is 14 days. According to, there are 12 regional circuits in the 94 federal judicial jurisdictions of the United States. In these circuits, there are 13 Federal Courts of Appeal; which has a panel of justices who handle all appeals on the federal level in each circuit. Above them is the US Court of Appeal for Federal Circuit which is the judicial institution that handles matters resulting from international trade, federal claims, constitutional and patent laws. A federal criminal appeals defendant must stay informed about the changes to court names and regulations; or locations of the courthouses.

After the notice of appeal has been dealt with, your lawyer can then file docketing statements; these are the statements that pertain to your trial. They will enable your case details to be is easily put together by the court clerks ready for referral to the appellate bench. In response to the filed notice; the court will issue a briefing schedule. Notification or communication towards the deadline of the briefing schedule is written to all parties, and the federal criminal appeals defendant has 45 days to prepare an opening brief. You must also get in touch with the court reporter who took notes of your proceedings. These notes have to be prepared into trial transcripts which take some time; the transcripts will be used to initiate your appeal defense.

After the briefing schedule has been published by the appellate court; the abilities of a capable federal criminal appeals lawyer will be required if not already acquired. Your counsel will help you to prepare an opening brief; this is the defendant’s first statement. The brief can be filed in a provided from, filled on judicial online portals or handwritten. The opening brief is a lengthy citation filled document; aiming to show the appellate court using references to other similar matters, that the lower court’s trial outcome did not meet either legal or other expectations in reference to your case.

The Federal Court of Appeal receives your legal representatives’ arguments; and then it’s the turn of the federal prosecutor who files their opening brief in reply to yours. They reply to the arguments your counsel has put forward and strive to show the bench why the sentencing you received is legally just. The defense lawyer then has a few weeks to file a reply brief; either stressing firmly upon the opening briefs’ stronger points or passing tactical tackles to the prosecution’s arguments. The federal criminal appeals circuit court will then decide if the briefs meet the necessary requirements to pass a ruling. Based on the opening and reply briefs plus other docketed evidence filed by the defense; they can pass sentencing or opt to hear oral arguments from your lawyer against the prosecution. At oral arguments, each side has exactly 30 minutes to make its case; which can be an intense half hour. The discretion however, remains with the judge though parties can make applications in federal criminal appeals for their oral arguments to be heard.

Depending on the outcome of this appeal, the defendant makes the choice to either; be content with the appeal court’s sentence, appeal again at federal circuit level and to further take the matter all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals bench has three judges that the president appoints and is on life tenure. Above this is the Supreme Court; which is the last stop for all appeals. There are however, many favorable outcomes to sentences that have gone through the federal criminal appeals process.