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Although it is helpful to learn some of the basic things to expect when filing a federal criminal appeal, there is no amount of reading that can match the skill, experience and resources of a quality federal criminal appeal attorney. This guide is a good start to knowing some of the major events during a federal criminal appeal, but you should definitely speak with a federal criminal appeal attorney about your specific case to make sure that your rights are protected and that you are doing everything in your power to gain your freedom back.
A federal criminal appeal is filed once a defendant has been convicted of a crime in either a bench trial with a judge or a jury trial in a federal district court. It starts with the defendant filing a notice of appeal that opens a new case in the circuit court of the same jurisdiction. Even though the notice of appeal must be filed fairly quickly after the final judgment is entered, it is not necessarily a full argument of all the issues that the defendant wishes to present. The clerk of the appellate court will later send the parties a timeline of when all briefs must be filed. The briefs are where the parties lay out their arguments to the panel of judges who will decide whether the conviction stays, the defendant gets a new trial or the conviction is overturned right away. Even if the conviction ends up being overturned, the appellate court still sends the case back to the district court to officially enter the new outcome on the record.
One of the top reasons why having a quality defense attorney is so important for trial is that the attorney must preserve anything that he believes the judge or prosecutor did wrong by placing an objection on the record. If the defense attorney did not object to an error at the district court trial, there is a good chance that the defendant will not be able to argue it at all on appeal.
The panel of judges will consider the appropriate standard of review to apply to the district court’s decision. Some issues will be reviewed only to see if the district court judge abused his discretion in something that negatively affected the defendant. Other issues will be reviewed as if they are being decided for the first time by the appellate court. This is a better standard for the defendant because it means that the panel of judges will decide the issue for themselves and not just whether the trial judge did something blatantly wrong.
It is also important to show that the error resulted in some prejudice or harm to the defendant. If the appellate court decides that the error was harmless, then this is not a basis for overturning the conviction. The standards apply to each issue will depend on the nature of the issue at hand, which is why working with a knowledgeable attorney is key.
A defendant receives a sentence from a district court sentencing judge after being convicted of a crime or entering into a plea agreement with the government. Many defendants file motions to have the district court reconsider the terms of the sentence so that they spend less time behind bars. This is separate from an appeal and may actually be more beneficial than just filing an appeal in some cases. Only you and an attorney can decide what form of relief is best for you to seek after you have been convicted or sentenced for a crime. Be sure to consult with an attorney quickly to avoid missing any deadlines.