03 Aug 23

How Can You Challenge A Federal Criminal Conviction?

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Last Updated on: 9th August 2023, 12:30 am

If you or a person close to you has been convicted of a federal crime, you might be interested to know what you can do to challenge that conviction. One of the main reasons why you would want to challenge the conviction is because you are convinced the trial judge(s) made the wrong decision or the jury made mistakes when arriving at the guilty decision. Other defendants will challenge the conviction because their own lawyers did not handle the case as they would have wanted. It is a constitutional right to the get right and effective legal counsel in a federal case. If the right of effective legal representation is in infringed, the defendant has the right to ask the court to overturn its earlier decision.

There are two ways through which a defendant can challenge a conviction in a federal court. The first one is a direct appeal and the second one is based on the ineffectiveness of the lawyer representing the defendant.

A direct appeal

A direct appeal is made through a notice of appeal within ten days after conviction. In a direct appeal, the defendant or trying to show the appellate court that the trial court made mistakes when making the conviction. It is the role of the defendant to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the judge or the jury did wrong. It is all about proving that what happened at the trial court did not follow the rule of law and therefore wasn’t right. The defendant must stick to proving that the trial court and the jury were wrong.


The other approach that the defendant might use to challenge a conviction is by applying the United States code 28 U.S.C. section 225. A petition made under section 2255 is one where the defendant agrees that they have been locked up, but the process involved in the conviction violated their rights. The defendant must prove that the violated rights involve a lack of effective legal representation. Section 2255 is, therefore, a channel through which a defendant can complain that his or her lawyer did not represent them effectively. If you lawyer willingly conducted poor investigations into the evidence adduced by the prosecution or was involved in malpractice, you might want to bring an appeal under section 2255.

It is important for the defendant to understand that when making an appeal under section 2255, it is a different case from making a direct appeal. In a direct appeal, you are attacking the trial court while for 2255, you are challenging the lawyer who represented you. It is prudent to first make a direct appeal before bringing up an appeal based on section 2255. It is up to the defendant to decide which one of the two they would like to challenge. Deciding on which one you would like to pursue will allow you to prepare sufficiently when facing the appellate court.

Federal appeals can be difficult to understand due to the complexity of the matter. It is therefore important to seek the services of a seasoned lawyer who understands how appeals are conducted to rectify the mistakes made at the trial court.

The defendant needs to understand that an appeal is not an opportunity to reopen the trial case. The role of the appeals court is to carry out legal proceedings that challenge the decision made by the trial court. In fact, most of the activities of the appeal process take place in writing. There are limited court hearings from both the defendant and the prosecution. The appellate courts do not receive new evidence about the trial case. Their job is to consider the legal arguments raised at the trial court and make a decision whether there was a proper interpretation of the law. It is a process which involves scrutinizing the information provided at the trial stage.

Another thing that defendants should understand is that there is a huge difference between a notice of appeal and a real appeal. After a notice of appeal has been filed, the defendant has 30 days to present the full case to the appellate judges. The defendant should not rush to hire a new lawyer within the ten days allowed by law to file a notice of appeal. It is just a brief notice that can be made even by a lesser qualified lawyer. However, before presenting full details of the appeal, a fully qualified lawyer should be hired to handle the case.

Why you need a federal criminal lawyer

At the point of telling a conviction, the defendant only has one chance to avoid jail time or to reduce the sentencing. It is, therefore, an important stage that should be taken with the seriousness it deserves. The defendant should hire a highly qualified lawyer who has a track record of engaging in appeal cases in the past and have successfully helped a good percentage of the defendants to get successful results.

How Can You Challenge A Federal Criminal Conviction?

When someone gets convicted of a crime, and they feel that justice was not served, the first thing that comes to mind is how to challenge the verdict. There are many things that can lead to a wrong ruling. Maybe, you feel that the judge was wrong, the prosecution did not do their work well, or your lawyer made a lot of mistakes during the case. The constitution allows you to appeal such rulings. However, one thing that has played out recently is a lack of knowledge by most people to know how to challenge a conviction. Here are the options at your disposal.

Choose a direct appeal

A direct appeal is when you notify the court that you intend to challenge their verdict. The constitution allows you to do it within 14 days after the initial and to observe several regulations. Therefore, when drafting the appeal case, your attorney will be working within timeframes because a simple mistake can lead to total dismissal of the appeal even before it starts. When you choose this type, your main task will be to convince the new jury that what the lower court did was not right.

Go for a 2255 appeal

Named after the US Code that created it, the 2255 appeal is different from a direct one because it is a habeas petition. In this case, you will telling the courts that your rights were violated, and that is the reason you are locked up. The rights talked about under this petition refer to the right to have a lawyer and so, you are simply telling the courts that the lawyers that represented you were wrong on your case. For example, if the attorney colluded with other parties to botch things, of they did not conduct sufficient research, you can bring the 2225 appeal to court.

Notice of appeal and the actual appeal

It is important to draw a difference between a notice of appeal and an appeal itself. The notice is a short document that notifies the courts that you will be challenging the ruling with a certain period of time. However, most people mistake in for a full appeal. There are cases that have never taken off because people gave notices, but never submitted the appeal. The actual document should be a detailed report of the things that went wrong during the hearing and what you think should have been done. It is this detailed appeal that the judges will be suing when hearings commence.

The evidence needed for an appeal

One of the problems that most people face during appeal cases emanate from evidence. You need to know that an appeal is not a retrial or new trial. Therefore, you will not be rehashing your evidence or providing new information to court. Anything that borders on those lines will be quashed by the court. What you should be doing is to convince the court that there were flaws in the proceedings at the lower court. Tell them about the mistakes the judges committed, what the prosecutor did not do right, or where your lawyers went wrong.

The duration of criminal appeals

When you choose to challenge a federal criminal conviction, you need to understand how long it is likely to take. Unfortunately, it is not always a good experience for most applicants. You thought that you will craft an appeal notice today and walk to freedom tomorrow; you are in for a rude shock. These cases are generally slow. Some of them take more than one year to be concluded. The reason behind this delay is that the courts are crowded. You will be surprised to know that there are thousands of cases before yours that are yet to take off. The sped will also depend on how your lawyer presents his case before the judges and how they work around the evidence.

As you can see, challenging a federal criminal conviction is not something that you can take lightly, but it is possible. As long as you can showcase that the lower court erred, you can start looking forward to your freedom. To b sure of this freedom, make sure that you find he most reliable lawyers. Choose attorneys with a proven track record in handling appeal cases similar to the one you are facing.