Being tried and convicted of a crime in federal court is unlike what one would face in a state court. The federal court system has its own rules, sentencing guidelines, and method of operations. This is why you will definitely need to rely on a professional and experienced federal criminal attorney in order to get your through the appeals process. If you can argue that there was some legal complication with your trial of any sort, then you have grounds for an appeal. The process of filing such an appeal is rather complex and time sensitive, which is precisely why you will need an attorney working on it from the first moment your guilty verdict is announced.
The Nature of a Federal Appeal
You might be under the impression that filing an appeal is the same thing as asking for a new trial. If granted, you might feel that you have the opportunity to call witnesses back to the stand and possibly even testify on your behalf if you feel that was what was missing the first time around. This is simply not the case. An appeal is much different. Your guilty verdict has already been announced, but you have the argument to make that there was some legal problem with the original trial that you wish to address with the court.
If granted, an appeal will take place almost entirely in written form. You will not actually be that involved, as your team of lawyers will be drafting all of the briefs. These will then be filed with the Appellate Court, and the judges there will read through the briefs and the counter arguments issued by the prosecution before making their decision. This takes places largely behind closed doors. There are no witnesses to be called, and you must just wait while the process runs it course. Before any of this can happen, you must first get the appeal successfully filed.
You Must First File the Proper Paperwork
The amount of work that goes into an appeal is rather exhaustive. It will take your attorney time to prepare everything, which is why it is important to find a lawyer who is interested in taking on the appeal in the first place. This needs to be done rather quickly, as the court does have specific deadlines that must be followed. To begin, a Notice of Appeal must first be filed. This is a small document of only one or two pages, but it is perhaps the most important part of the process. Generally speaking, it must be filed within ten days of the initial verdict being handed down. If you miss this deadline, it is the same as accepting the guilty verdict.
Once the notice of appeal has been filed, then your attorneys can begin working on writing out specifically what areas of your trial were improperly executed. This must be proven in order for your appeal to have any hope of being granted. As such, you will want to ensure that you have a lawyer working for you who has experience in the federal appeals system. The work is tiring and it is cumbersome. Not every lawyer is cut out for it, so really work hard at the outset to get an attorney who you feel will best represent your interests.
Waiting Is the Hardest Part
The federal appeals process can move along rather slowly. This can be rather frustrating, particularly if you are forced to stay in prison pending the outcome. Just writing out the briefs can take months, and then you must wait for the courts to have time to read through everything. It can take over a year for some appeals to be heard, so you will need to be patient and ask your attorney to provide you with regular updates along the way. A decision will eventually come your way.