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Before you get bogged down in the details of getting through a federal criminal appeal, you should bear in mind that this process is more difficult to understand than the nuances of a criminal trial. It turns on technicalities of how seemingly small issues were handled in the district court trial and can take a long time to resolve. It is not something that you can reasonably take care of by yourself without years of legal training because it is complex by design. It is impossible to pursue a federal criminal appeal on the facts and evidence alone. You will need to back up your arguments with legal research.
In general, a defendant pursues a federal criminal appeal when there was some sort of mishap or poor ruling in the district court trial that may have influenced the outcome. Clearly, a defendant only files a federal criminal appeal if he was convicted of a crime. With the exception of specific issues, a federal criminal appeal cannot be filed until the judgment against the defendant is final.
In a federal criminal appeal, the defendant is either hoping for the judges to grant him a new trial or overturn his conviction without having to go through a criminal trial again. Both of these outcomes are hard to achieve because the standards for overturning a conviction in a federal district court are high. Some defendants who do not necessarily want a new trial or think that their odds of success are slim on appeal will file motions to have their prison sentences revoked or reduced. This is called a post-conviction motion for relief. It is decided by a district court judge instead of a panel of judges in the appropriate circuit court.
You will have to make all of your arguments in a federal criminal appeal through written briefs that spell out the issues you think the district court judge did not decide correctly. You may also claim that the government engaged in some sort of wrongdoing that should result in your conviction being overturned. Your defense attorney may get the opportunity to present your argument orally, but this never happens before written briefs are filed by both sides. The appellate court judges must decide that oral arguments from both sides would be worthwhile in your case for that hearing to be scheduled. This typically happens if there is some sort of difficult legal issue involved in your federal criminal appeal that the panel of judges thinks would be best considered after both parties get to talk through their arguments.
Even if you get the opportunity to present your arguments orally to the circuit court, you should plan on having to wait for some later date to find out how the appellate court ruled on your case. The outcome of your federal criminal appeal will be conveyed to you in a written order. In addition to the required briefs, either side may end up filing a motion throughout the federal criminal appeal process, which could delay the ultimate determination on your appeal.
Filing a federal criminal appeal is not something that you should take lightly or try on your own without the support of a lawyer advocating for you. The above overview of the appeal process illuminated some of the basic challenges that you are bound to encounter in pursuing a federal criminal appeal in your case. Schedule an initial consultation with a federal criminal defense attorney who has experience representing other defendants in their appeals. You will have a much better chance of getting through the process without missing opportunities to have your conviction reversed if you are assisted by a competent defense lawyer.