When is a Federal Criminal Appeal Warranted?
The federal criminal courts can be hard to navigate. There is so much case-law that defines the elements of various crimes and when the government has overstepped its bounds. Yet, researching and sifting through it all can be a daunting task. It takes many attorneys a lifetime of research and practice to gain competency. Even then, the laws are changing all the time as the case-law redefines them.

Therefore, when you choose an attorney for a criminal appeal, you’d best choose one that has a successful practice. Hiring your family estate planning attorney to represent you on trial or appeals can be like planning your own funeral. Yet, there are not many issues that present the right of appeal in the federal jurisprudence anymore.

Situations Where One Might Appeal

The appeals in federal courts are extremely limited. In most state courts, you have the potential for many rounds of appellate review. There is usually an intermediate superior court or appellate division thereof and a supreme court. Although it may be harder to obtain review in the state supreme courts, it is far easier than getting the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court, which is reserved for the importance of conduct by big business and pressing national issues.

The other problem that limits the number of appeals is plea bargaining. Plea bargaining is a practice that only recently came into formal acceptance in the late ’60s. There is no provision for plea bargaining in the U.S. Constitution because it essentially tempts defendants to forgo all their rights and challenging the evidence against them in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

As a result of plea-bargaining sugarcoating mass incarceration, lawmakers are pushing for heavier sentences that can undermine the truth-determining process. If you have the option of paying a fine or going to prison for life, surely you will choose the former even if you are completely innocent. In this manner, the legislation can approach a form of involuntary coercion that delegates full faith in the prosecutors to determine who is guilty or innocent, not a jury of ones peers.

The per se effect of bringing a prosecution is nearly equivalent to a conviction when you consider the obstacles in presenting a strong defense and the potential penalties. In most cases, the prosecutor’s office controls all the evidence and can easily withhold information to make anyone appear guilty. This awesome power lacks checks and balances and creates a system where the harm that officials calculate is only held back by their personal sense of conscience.

Therefore, the only surefire method of guaranteeing appellate review is to put your faith in a rickety bridge of defense counsel and appellate counsel to work out the errors, hoping the courts agree. The monopolization of corporate America and the media control by the elite makes it difficult for victims of injustice to highlight the issues. And even when they do, they are often forgotten about without change because they must face a bureaucracy of government attorneys willing to spin things some other way, without conscience.

The Appellate Process

Regardless of the poor state of the Union, there are ways to win on appeal if you do preserve the right. The best way is to hire an appellate attorney who is good at briefing. Since an appeal revolves around the arguments laid out in a written brief, the better that your attorney is at explaining things with words, the more effective he will be in persuading an appellate panel.

The appellate or trial attorney will file a notice of appeal, a simple one-page document alerting the court and opposing parties of your intent to challenge issues. This is followed by briefing and may, in some cases, include short oral argument sessions for your attorney to persuade a panel that is on the fence or confused by an issue. The ultimate relief will be a new trial, reduced sentence, and even a full acquittal in some exceptional cases.

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