Being convicted of a federal crime is serious. Your entire life is at stake. Your ability to take care of your family, enjoy your freedom, and pursue a future are all compromised with that one word ‘guilty’ being announced at the end of your trial. However, this does not have to be the end of the matter. Many things can go wrong in a criminal trial. If there was some legal issue with the trial, you have the right to file an appeal. This is an important legal right that you have, and it is important that you have a lawyer ready to act on that right away.
A Federal Criminal Appeal Explained
Many people mistakingly believe that filing an appeal is the same thing as asking for a new trial. It is not. You have been found guilty, so the law does not allow for a new trial to be conducted except in rare situations. An appeal is the process by which you make the claim that there was some legal problem with the trial that the court needs to hear about. This will be filed as a written brief where your lawyer makes the detailed claim that your guilty verdict should be invalidated based upon the legal issue contained in the brief. However, it is not an opportunity to present new evidence, call witnesses back to the stand, or decide to finally testify on your behalf. In fact, most of the appeals process occurs by way of written documents and is decided upon behind closed doors.
The Notice of Appeals
If you wish to file an appeal to your federal conviction, it is important that you follow the rules. You cannot just tell the judge after your guilty verdict has been announced that you wish to appeal. That would make things too easy. In reality, your lawyer will need a great deal of time to write up the legal briefs, as there is a lot of ground to cover. Since the court only gives you ten days to decide whether or not to appeal your conviction, you will not have time to complete the actual process by then.
This is where you need to understand the importance of filing a Notice of Appeals. This is a surprisingly short document, but its importance cannot be overstated enough. It must be filed within ten days of your original conviction. The purpose is to inform the court that you intend to appeal the conviction. It is only one or two pages in length, but it gives your lawyers the room and time they need to get ready for the actual appeal. Do not wait until the deadline is almost passed before you approach a lawyer about representing you during an appeal. It takes time to find a lawyer who will commit to the time involved in planning such a strategy, and that ten day clock is ticking.
This All Takes Time
Unfortunately, many people convicted of a federal crime find the appeals process to be excruciatingly frustrating. It can take months, and often times over a year, before you even see your case moving forward on the Appellate Court’s docket. It is important to be patient throughout the process. Your lawyer can only do so much to speed up the process. Technology is starting to help with many of the delays by allowing much of the paperwork to be filed and stored electronically, but the reality is that there are a lot of appeals that must be decided on each and every year.
If you are in the position of needing to have an appeal to your federal conviction filed, you have no time to waste. It is important to retain experienced legal counsel in order to get that notice of appeals filed in a timely fashion. This will get you on the path to receiving the justice that you are looking for.