If you are like the overwhelming majority of federal defendants, you had little choice other than submitting a negotiated plea. This is, in part, because the federal sentencing schemes are both ridiculous and coercive. In Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the penalty for a case could be so severe to the point of being coercive.
Although this was once recognized, the courts no longer hold firm on the rulings and have allowed a tough-on-crime approach to dominate without checks and balances. The theory is that the government can produce commercials and examples like the ancient Romans of their ghastly public crucifixions to intimidate lawbreakers.
This is far from practical and amounts to tyranny. The truth is that most crime is arbitrary and is the result of socio-economic oppression or disenfranchisement. If there are no legal methods for someone to obtain what they want out of life that others have, they will be all but certain to choose unorthodox methods. And the truth is that everyone has a breaking point or weakness.
When you consider this wisdom, it seems unfair that anyone should be incarcerated when this does not solve the problem or rehabilitate them. It is doubtful that criminals consider the consequences when they commit crimes. Most occur due to mental illness, thoughtless drug-induced psychosis, physical disability, or because it is too tempting to commit fraud or sell drugs with the lure of fast and easy money.
In order to relieve yourself of these harsh penalties and reduce the sentence, you have to take your appeal opportunities seriously. The best attorneys are dedicated to the cause of countering the aggression of prosecutors. They stick up for the disenfranchised among us and work for the greater good of humanity. This is why our law firm is your best choice.
Overview of the Federal Appeals Process
In order to secure your appellate rights, your trial court attorney must preserve issues in the U.S. District Court that have an effect on the legitimacy of the prosecution. If there were 4th Amendment search and seizure violations or other unlawful tactics, your attorney must create a clear record to pursue the issues on appeal. Although a plea waives most errors, an attorney can stipulate in the plea bargaining process that they reserve the right to pursue certain pre-plea errors.
If this is the case, you may have grounds for a direct appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for your district. This appeal is taken by filing a notice of appeal and any filing fee in the U.S. District Court. The notice of appeal is a very terse one-page document that simply notifies the prosecutor and the court that you are challenging the rulings in the appellate court.
The notice of appeal may be due in as few as 10 days after a final judgment is entered in the case. For this reason, you should never delay planning for an appeal and hiring appellate counsel. In a pinch, you could ask your trial counsel to assist you in filing the notice. He is obligated under ethical laws and his fiduciary duty to do so. Failure to timely file a notice of appeal can result in a permanent bar against any further review of the issues preserved on direct appeal.
The briefing may be scheduled after the notice is filed and the record is transferred up to the appellate court. The appellant (defendant) will be asked to file their opening brief within 45 days. The appellee (prosecutor) will be instructed to file their response within 30 days of being served with your appellant brief. You will then have an opportunity to file an additional short reply brief to address new issues raised by the appellee.
Appeals can take as little as 3 months or years, depending on what circuit it is filed in and the complexity of the case. Your appellate counsel may request oral arguments sessions to add some clarification to the claims. Ultimately, the written briefs that try to correct legal errors by citing laws and facts are the core of an appeal.
If you win, the case will be reversed or remanded for further proceedings. Other issues will be reserved for another post-conviction process called habeas corpus, where new evidence and the competency of trial counsel is challenged.