- Difficulty finding steady employment
- Education obstacles
- Trouble finding housing
While that final bang of the gavel after the judge pronounces the conviction feels final, there is an option that can revive hope for the defendant. Federal criminal appeals can lead to a more desirable verdict and can be well worth the investment.
What is a Federal Criminal Appeal?
A federal criminal appeal is the opportunity for a defendant convicted of a federal crime to challenge their conviction or sentence. It’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t a new trial. Rather, it’s a proceeding that allows the defendant to attack the judgement or order of the court on legal grounds. Just a few circumstances that could be grounds for an appeal include:
- Lack of sufficient evidence
- Inaccurate jury instructions
- False arrest
- Sentencing errors
- Juror misconduct
- Improper exclusion or admission of evidence
- Ineffective assistance of counsel
Don’t Expect a Speedy Process
Federal courts are busy. With so much going on, it can take months or even years to go through the appeals process. Each claim that’s submitted must be individually examined, and there is no technology currently available that can eliminate the need to use teams of professionals to take on each and every case. If you think you qualify for a federal criminal appeal, it’s important to understand that these cases take, on average, around a year.
You Want Your Argument Heard
In many cases, a defendant waits only to hear back that their appeal was granted or denied. It’s not required that the defendant has their day in court. While this may seem less stressful, it decreases your chances of winning the appeal.
Ideally, you want the chance to present your argument before the appellate judges. In order to achieve this, it’s critical you have a well-planned brief that presents compelling legal issues involving your case. In the event an oral argument is granted, there is typically only around 20-30 minutes to present your case. Because of all these restrictions, it’s worth the investment in an appellate lawyer who is both an excellent writer and oral advocate.
Be Prepared for a Steep Financial Investment
It isn’t cheap to file an appeal. Although costs will vary depending on the complexity of your case, you can estimate what you’ll have to pay:
- Filing fees are currently $455.
- Transcript is typically released on cost-per-page basis and can get into the thousands of dollars.
- Travel funds may be necessary for your attorney to attend oral argument.
While it isn’t cheap to file an appeal, the costs associated with the consequence of jail time and a permanent criminal record can far outweigh the investment in the appeals process.
What If There’s No Acquittal?
Ultimately, you want to be acquitted of your charges. This means all charges are dismissed, and you can move on with life as normal. Unfortunately, this is a rare occurrence.
It’s much more likely trial errors will result in a new trial. It will be held in the same district court as your original trial, and you’ll essentially have to go through the entire process again. While this sounds grueling, there are a couple of potential outcomes that make it well worth the time:
- The prosecution, for whatever reason, may choose not to try the case again.
- You may be provided with a more favorable plea offer.
- You may win your case the second time around.