Federal Appeals Lawyers

How to Make Your Federal Criminal Appeal More Successful

A federal criminal appeal is a delicate process. As the appellant, you are unlikely to get the opportunity to speak to any of the judges or court staff who review your case. Your legal counsel will be able to assist you with every step of your appeal.

1. Find the Right Attorney

An appeal is different from a normal criminal case. The appellate courts are not interested in the admission of new evidence, and the appeal does not go to a recognizable trial. The lawyer who represented you for your initial district court case may not be the right choice for a federal criminal appeal.

Seek an attorney who has experience with federal criminal appeals. Your lawyer will need to review the court record for the case, find potential errors in the trial proceedings, and write a compelling argument as to why those errors impact the final judgment that you would like overturned. Success depends on your attorney’s ability to recognize the relevant issues that the appellate court will be interested in.

As a final note, some attorneys ask clerks or junior staff members to help them construct each brief. Find an attorney who will personally comb through the details of your case.

2. File Your Notice of Appeal On Time

You have 10 days to file your notice of appeal after the judgment is entered. This notice is not the same thing as the appeal brief. If you have not yet retained legal counsel for your appeal, ask the attorney who handled your district court case to help you file this notice. If the notice is not filed on time, you will lose your right to appeal the case.

3. Follow All Formatting Requirements

Appellate courts have strict requirements for the way each brief is formatted. Small details like the font or the color of the binding can result in a rejection of your appeal.

Federal appellate judges handle an overwhelming number of cases every day. Small formatting errors can actually be quite disruptive to their process. By correctly following the formatting requirements, you show respect for their work and their time.

4. Preserve Errors During the Initial Case

The proceedings of your district court case will determine the appellate court’s decision. Any errors that occur in the original trial must be noticed and responded to accordingly. If the district court is not given a chance to respond to an error, the appellate court will not consider it in their judgment.

Your legal counsel should be prepared to object to any errors while the original trial is in session. If something is stricken from the record, the lawyer should persist until an adverse ruling is made against the objection. This adverse ruling will be added to the court record, and the error will be preserved for later review.

Speak with your legal counsel to understand if preservation of error will impact your case.

5. Prepare a Sufficient Budget

Federal criminal appeals are lengthy and potentially expensive. An adequate budget will help your legal counsel successfully argue your case.

The appeal brief may be costly to compile. Your attorney needs time to review the small details of your case. The brief itself will need to include court transcripts and important evidence. For long trials, collecting and reviewing a complete transcript can be an expensive part of this process.

Should your legal counsel be granted the opportunity for an oral argument, they will need to travel to the site of the appellate court. Expect to pay for them to travel the day before and stay overnight; you want them to be well-rested so that they can argue your case in the morning.

Your attorney will help you determine the budget necessary for your appeal. A federal criminal appeal is an extremely impactful event; do not try to cut costs at any level of this process.

Ultimately, the success of your appeal relies on your legal counsel’s ability to find and highlight relevant information in your case. An eloquent and well-reasoned attorney who understands the requirements of the appellate court will be able to help you submit a successful federal criminal appeal.

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