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There is often confusion about federal criminal appeals. It’s not just clients that have questions, some attorneys find the appeal process for federal crimes somewhat shrouded in mystery. There is a distinct possibility that the lack of clarity concerning federal criminal appeals is by design. While there are aspects of the process that are quite public, such as oral arguments, many elements are designed to be private.

Is evidence reheard in a federal criminal appeal?

One of the aspects of a federal criminal appeal that’s often misunderstood is what actually happens during the appeal process. For instance, some people are under the impression that evidence will be reheard during the appeal. This is actually a misconception because a federal criminal appeal is not an opportunity to re-open and present the facts of the case again. In fact, it’s quite the opposite because there are no similarities between the trial and the appeal.

A federal criminal appeal offers a chance to attack the order of the court on a legal ground. This can in fact be more than one legal ground and it’s usually involving the order of a district court. Another area of confusion is related to the logistics of a federal criminal appeal. The reality is that most of the appeals process occurs in writing. It essentially involves filing of briefs by attorneys on both sides to communicate and respond to legal errors that have allegedly taken place during the district court proceeding.

It’s worth noting that appellate courts do not have juries, witness stands or official court reporters like district courts. This dynamic alone sets the federal criminal appeal process apart from the trial. Another way in which the process is different is that appellate courts typically do not receive testimony or evidence. Instead, they consider and resolve legal arguments. This happens after the facts related to the case have been heard in the district court.

How does the appellate court receive information?

Given that the facts of the case are not presented as they were in a trial, there’s often confusion regarding how the appellate court receives information regarding the case in order to make a decision. Generally speaking, evidence that was received by the district court is transported to the location of the appellate court. This gives the appellate judge an opportunity to examine items that would enable them to consider the legal arguments of the appeal. It’s important to understand that the appellate court does not receive new evidence.

While the appellate court judge is able to review information from the trial, this will not include any new information. In other words, the details of the case probably won’t change. In fact, there isn’t much of a chance that you’ll be able to change anything that’s already on record from the trial.

What’s a “Notice of Appeal”?

There is a document called a “Notice of Appeal” that seems to be another area of confusion. Based on the title of the document, it’s understandable that some people would think it’s confirming an actual appeal. However, that’s not what the document represents. In fact, a “Notice of Appeal” and an appeal are entirely different. The notice serves the purpose of informing the appellate court and the district court that a party in the case intends to appeal. There’s a requirement to file the notice within ten days of the judgment being entered.

Generally speaking, it’s best to make a decision right away about whether or not you intend to appeal a case. You don’t want to wait until the last minute and endure unnecessary difficulties. Although the lawyer from the case has an ethical obligation to assist with preserving the client’s appellate rights, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will file the notice of appeal for the client.

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