08 Jul 20

Federal Case Criminal Appeals

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Last Updated on: 4th August 2023, 06:37 pm

In the event that you or someone you care about has received an unfavorable result in the United States District Court, you should be aware that this does not have to be the end of your legal battle. You can look into federal case criminal appeals options.  A well seasoned federal appeals attorney can walk you through the steps of appealing the outcome, so you can get another shot at justice. If your matter was lost at trial, certain portions may be eligible for review by the United States Court of Appeals.   The review could possibly result in a lessened sentence or, in some cases, an overturned verdict.

If you’ve lost your initial court battle and want another chance to achieve the best available result, reach out to a federal appeals attorney with a good track record of wins on appeals. 

The US Federal Court System: A Deeper Understanding

The United States federal court system is made up of three main levels: district courts, circuit courts, and the Supreme Court.  For your first hearing, your federal criminal case will be heard in a United States District Court. There are 94 district courts across the country where criminal cases are tried. If you got a negative outcome and opt to pursue an appeal, your case will be moved up into a circuit court. At that stage, if either party continues to be dissatisfied with the result, they have the right to file a “writ of certiorari” (latin, meaning to be more fully informed), in an attempt to get the Supreme Court to hear the case. This writ, a rather rare filing in general, requires the lower court to submit their files to the higher court for review.  If the writ is not granted, the Circuit Court’s decision will stand.

Appealing in Federal Court

If you feel as though your federal case was decided unjustly, then you might consider filing an appeal to the court’s decision. The first step is to file a notice of appeal with the clerk of the district court. You have a 30 day window to file your notice for civil cases, and a 10 day window to file for federal criminal cases. Your lawyer will send the proof of service of the notice of appeal to the opposing attorneys and wait for the clerk of the district court to approve the notice.  The approved notice is forwarded to the clerk for the court of appeals. Next, a docketing notice will be issued.  This sets the dates for hearings or briefing deadlines for the appeal.

Your appeal will more than likely be handled in the Circuit Court of Appeals that has jurisdiction over your state. Your attorney will look over the specific details of your case and help you understand the complexities that surround it. Bringing an experienced lawyer onto your team gives you access to invaluable insight that could quite possibly protect you from a wrongful conviction or other harsh repercussions.

What Issues are Raised in a Federal Criminal Appeal?

Should you ever be unjustly convicted or sentenced, you may be able to appeal the decision to a higher court. On the federal level, cases can climb up from the District Court to a Court of Appeals, and in rare cases, they can move right up to the Supreme Court of the United States. A licensed federal appeals attorney can represent your best interests throughout the process and make certain that everything possible is done to continue to fight for the best available result in your case. A goodly number of cases are decided on appeal, and although it is extremely difficult to win a case at the appellate level, with an experienced defense lawyer on your team, it is very possible. 

There are a multitude of issues that you could raise in an appeal.  Nonetheless, you want to be sure to select the most persuasive and then present your issues in the best possible fashion. A skilled appellate defender with extensive experience in writing appellate briefs, woll know how to create a compelling case after a criminal conviction. Whether you want to challenge the procedures that were followed in the course of your federal case, the evidence used by the prosecution, or the sentence the judge decided upon, your appellate options should be weighed carefully and chosen strategically.

Challenging Investigation and Pretrial Motions in a Federal Criminal Case Through Appeal

In the majority of criminal cases, any issues that came up during investigation could have been challenged during the initial trial. Nevertheless, there may be additional opportunities at the appeals stage to reflect on how the investigating agents and prosecution acted during the earlier phase of your case. In the event that your rights were violated at any stage, and you can challenge the constitutionality of the actions of agents or the U.S. attorney, these problems can be raised again on appeal. An appeal is basically a review of the lower court’s decision.  It is not a new case.  That said, if you believe you had a sound argument that the court wasn’t persuaded by, it isn’t too late to get the higher court to take a look at that issue.

Challenging Evidence in a Federal Criminal Appeal

You might also opt to raise issues specifically related to the evidence in your matter. Perhaps the court did not permit you to use a particular witness, or did permit someone whose testimony you don’t believe was lawful. You could request that the appellate court examine the evidence and how it was obtained, and maybe have the case reviewed without that evidence included if successful. Your appellate lawyer will walk you through your options and make sure you select the post-conviction strategy that is best for your unique case.

Challenging a Federal Criminal Sentence On Appeal

If you are not confident that you can sway the court on your innocence, but you disagree with the sentence handed down in your case, then you can choose to appeal that portion of the decision alone. Sentences are supposed to fall within federal guidelines, and if the judge strayed from the guidelines and similar preceding cases, then you can challenge the sentence and look to get a reduction or reconsideration.

How Long Does a Federal Criminal Appeal Take?

Federal Criminal Appeal: A Second Chance at Justice

If you are displeased with the result you or your loved one ended up with in a trial and want to file an appeal, it is critical that you work with an attorney who is willing to put in the hard, continuous work necessary to ensure you have the best chance at success on appeal. 

If you have asked yourself how long a federal criminal appeal could possibly take, you may be disappointed with the answer. In general, the appellate process is incredibly slow, particularly at the federal level, and the majority of federal criminal appeals take upwards of a year or more. In reality, it is possible for an appeal to take even longer than that.  Some cases could move more quickly, but if you have decided on appealing your case decision, then it is important that you prepare yourself for a long and drawn-out battle.

Normally, the window of your right to appeal is only open for a limited time, so you need to move quickly. In contrast, though the time you have to file an appeal goes by very fast, the appellate process takes excruciatingly long. Work with a skilled federal attorney early on to make sure you take the proper steps to file an appeal.

Initial Steps in Filing a Federal Criminal Appeal

After the sentencing stage in a case, you have the opportunity to file a notice of appeal. Once you file, the court reporter will then order transcripts from the trial, which could potentially be done in advance if you have been convicted and have already made the decision to appeal. When you have a transcript of everything that was said and done in your case, you can move into the briefing stage.  In this stage, your attorney will prepare a written account of your argument for the court. After briefs are prepared and exchanged by both sides, the appellate court assumes control over the case.

Federal Appellate Courts – The Criminal Appeal Process

After the court takes your case over, you will probably have to wait for a long time to hear back on next steps. Appellate courts have a great deal of cases to handle, and usually there are too few judges to share the workload. In addition, appellate court officials have long records to review for each case.  The review process can take months.

If a court deems it necessary, oral argument will be ordered. This order can prolong an appellate case even further, although on the bright side, it may also be an indicator that the court is more seriously considering your appeal. Collaborating with an attorney will help you to keep track of how your case is moving along, and also give you the best chance at a favorable end result.

After the court is done with briefs and, if necessary, oral arguments, then the panel of judges will render a decision on what should happen in the case. They could make a ruling overturning the earlier decision. Alternatively, they may affirm the lower court judgment.  They may also remand the case back to another court with instructions. This can mean going back to the courtroom, further prolonging your already lengthy legal battle.

A federal criminal appeal is not a short process, and it is definitely not an easy one. That is why you should have an experienced attorney on your team helping you handle every detail in the appellate process.

What Happens in a Federal Criminal Appeal?

In the event that you or someone you love has been handed an unjust result in federal court, you’re probably wondering what will happen next. You don’t feel you should have to accept an unfair guilty verdict, but also, you may not know what your options are. You need the assistance of an experienced federal appeals attorney that has a great deal of experience working on federal criminal cases. You still have an opportunity to file an appeal, potentially clear your good name, and reverse the results of your case. Appeals are tough to win, but when a skilled attorney is battling on your behalf, it is possible to experience success. You should get a lawyer who knows what it takes to win in the Court of Appeals, and will do everything in their power to put you on course to receiving your desired outcome. 

What Is a Federal Criminal Appeal?

A multitude of defendants wrongfully assume that a federal criminal appeal is a second trial or some venue for the rehearing of evidence, but this is not so. An appeal is a legal proceeding that specifically examines the judgment of the court on the basis of legal grounds. Your federal attorney will bring attention to the legal errors that took place during your trial that may have affected the results of your case. If he or she can successfully demonstrate that the results were unjust, you have a chance at reversing the outcome and protecting your future.

The actual appeal proceeding will take place almost completely through written documents, so it’s critical that the attorney you choose to work with is skilled at and experienced in preparing briefs. In some situations, you may have an opportunity to argue orally. If this option is presented to you, always take it. Appealing your case orally will give your lawyer a chance to present your side of the story clearly and concisely before the court, giving you a better shot at winning. Appealing in a federal criminal matter is time consuming and arduous, but can be done. If you are of the belief that your rights were violated during your trial or the results were arrived at unjustly, you may have a case. 

Filing a “Notice of Appeal”

The first step in appealing your matter is to file your “notice of appeal.” Once you receive the judgment in your federal criminal case, you will have a matter of days to notify the district and appellate court that you intend to appeal the decision. This timeline often stresses defendants out, but with the support of a knowledgeable attorney, it can be met. If you don’t already have a good lawyer and you reach out to one within days of receiving an unfavorable outcome, he or she will still have time to review the details of your case and determine if an appeal could be beneficial. Your lawyer will then file a “notice of appeal” and begin developing your case or discussing other post-conviction options with you. It’s important that you work with an attorney you trust, because he or she will play a major role in guiding your approach to the post-conviction stage of your case. 

Pretrial Release: How to Get Out of Jail While Your Federal Criminal Appeal is Pending

While getting out of jail while your federal criminal appeal is pending is a difficult feat to accomplish, it is not impossible. Your attorney will work in collaboration with you to prove three things to the judge in order to secure you a pretrial release.  

Demonstrating these three facts can help get you out of prison while your appeal is pending. 

  1. The first thing you have to show is that you are not going to be a hazard to society. This means that you won’t bring harm or be a danger to anyone or yourself during your time out.  This is sometimes also referred to as “danger to the community”.  Some factors a judge would consider in this determination are: 
    1. Your history of substance abuse
    2. Your mental health
    3. Your prior criminal record
  2. The next thing you have to prove is that you are not a flight risk.  In a federal criminal proceeding, the term “flight risk” refers to the perception of the risk that the defendant will flee the jurisdiction where the case is before the end of the case.  In other words, you would have to prove to the judge that if you are released, you won’t leave the country or run from the law. Some factors a judge would consider in this determination are: 
      1. How long you have been living as a member of the community in the jurisdiction and what social and economic ties you have to it.  
      2. The nature of the offense involved.
      3. The reputation of your attorney
      4. Whether you have the support of your community in the case.  For example, if you have character witnesses willing to testify for you, that reduces your perception of flight risk.  
      5. If you are a national of another country or you have deep connections in another country, that might raise the risk level from a judge’s perspective. 
  3. The final fact you need to convince the judge of is that you’re likely to win your appeal, meaning that you won’t have any further prison time to serve after your case is through. 

This third fact, convincing the judge that you’re likely to win your case and avoid jail time, is customarily the most difficult part of getting out of prison while your federal criminal appeal is pending. Essentially, you have to demonstrate to the judge that the court got it wrong the first time around. You will need to give the judge a very solid reason for him or her to believe that when you do appeal, you’ll win the appeal. Working with a knowledgeable attorney on your appeal will give you the best chance at receiving a favorable outcome as you fight to prove you will be successful. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Having a Bench Trial

As you get closer to your trial date, your New York criminal attorney may explain that you do not have to have a jury decide your case. Instead, your New York criminal attorney can request a bench trial on your behalf. Your attorney may discuss the disadvantages and advantages to having a bench trial.

Credibility Determinations

Some jurors have difficulty believing police officers, but judges may be more likely to believe them. If a witness is sympathetic but confused, a judge may be more likely to find such evidence insufficient to convict the defendant.

Exclusion of Evidence

Your New York criminal attorney can explain that jurors are not made aware of certain evidence if it has been suppressed. However, the judge will know about this information. Additionally, the judge will learn about the defendant’s prior criminal record while jurors will not.

Harsher Sentence

In some cases, a defendant has no legitimate excuse but will insist on going to trial in order to delay the inevitable. When this situation arises, the judge may express his or her aggravation with this behavior by giving the defendant a harsher sentence. Additionally, judges may give harsher sentences to defendants who refused to waive a jury trial when bench trials are more frequent.

Preservation of Legal Issues

If a legitimate legal issue arises, it is important that your attorney get this information on the record in case the issue makes the case more likely to succeed on appeal. Having a bench trial may be the best way to preserve the issue.


Whether a defendant is appearing in front of only a judge or in front of an entire jury, it is imperative that the defendant dress appropriately. The defendant is constantly before the jury as he or she sits at the counsel table or while he or she is testifying. Dressing poorly can give the jury a bad impression that may influence them to react negatively toward this individual. Older male defendants may wear suits with a light-colored shirt. If the defendant is in a professional position, such as a lawyer, architect or doctor, he should wear a tie. Younger male defendants can wear slacks, sweaters and belts. Female defendants should wear a dress, skirt or slacks with a nice blouse. Women can also wear suits. Women should be dressed in a modest manner and should not expose their back, midriff, shoulders or too much skin. Tattoos and piercings should be covered up or removed. Women defendants may wear a pair of earrings but should avoid wearing jewelry that is too flashy.