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How Long Do I Have to File My Federal Criminal Appeal?

How Long Do I Have to File My Federal Criminal Appeal?

If you were just convicted of a federal crime and want to appeal, you’re probably wondering how long you have to file your appeal. This is an important question because there are strict deadlines for filing a federal criminal appeal that you need to be aware of.

The short answer is that you generally have 14 days from the entry of judgment to file a notice of appeal in a federal criminal case. But there are a lot of details and exceptions you need to know. Let’s break it down step-by-step so you understand the timeline for federal criminal appeals.

Final Judgment in Your Federal Criminal Case

The clock for your appeal starts ticking when there is a “final judgment” in your federal criminal case. This usually happens when the judge sentences you and enters the judgment of conviction in your case.

For example, if the judge sentences you on March 1, that will usually be the “final judgment” date that starts the countdown for your appeal. But it depends on the specifics of your case.

14 Days to File Your Notice of Appeal

Once there is a final judgment, you generally have 14 days to file a “notice of appeal” with the district court that handled your case. This notice of appeal is a short document stating your intention to appeal your conviction or sentence to a federal appeals court.

So in our example, if you were sentenced and the final judgment was entered on March 1, you would have until March 15 (14 days later) to file your notice of appeal. That’s because the day of judgment (March 1) does not count, and you get 14 days after that.

The 14-day deadline is strict. If you miss it, you could lose your right to appeal. So make sure you know when the final judgment was entered in your case and calendar your deadline to file the notice of appeal.

Extensions of Time to File an Appeal

There are some circumstances where you can get more time to file your appeal beyond the 14 days:

  • If you show “excusable neglect or good cause,” the district court can give you up to 30 extra days to file your notice of appeal.
  • If you did not receive notice of the entry of judgment in your case, you get additional time, usually 14 days from when you actually received notice.
  • The government gets 30 days to file an appeal, instead of just 14 days.

So in limited cases, you could have up to 44 days to file your notice of appeal. But you have to take action and request an extension in a timely manner. The 14-day deadline is the default that applies in most cases.

Notice of Appeal Starts the Appeal Process

Once you file your notice of appeal with the district court, your appeal process officially begins. The district court will notify the Court of Appeals that an appeal has been filed. You or your lawyer will then get a schedule from the Court of Appeals for filing your opening brief and other appeal documents.

The notice of appeal is a crucial first step, but your appeal involves many more filings over the next several months. Having an experienced federal criminal appeal lawyer is important to navigate the complex appeals process and put together persuasive arguments.

You Can Appeal Both Convictions and Sentences

It’s important to understand that you can appeal both your conviction and your sentence in a federal criminal case. For example:

  • You can argue the jury got the verdict wrong and your conviction should be overturned.
  • You can argue there were legal errors in your trial that affected the outcome.
  • You can argue your sentence was too harsh or improperly calculated under the sentencing guidelines.

The notice of appeal does not have to specify the issues you plan to raise. You will make detailed arguments in your opening brief later in the appeal process.

Act Fast to Preserve Your Appeal Rights

The bottom line is that you have limited time to file your notice of appeal from a federal criminal judgment. So if you want to appeal, don’t delay. Speak with a federal criminal appeal lawyer right away to get the ball rolling.

With a proper notice of appeal, you can then take the time needed to identify your strongest appeal issues and craft persuasive arguments. But you have to act fast to file that initial notice and preserve your right to be heard by the appeals court.

Other Time Limits in Federal Criminal Appeals

The notice of appeal is just the first deadline you need to worry about. Here are some other crucial filing deadlines in federal criminal appeal cases:

  • Transcript Order: You have 14 days from filing your notice of appeal to order transcripts of any proceedings you want the appeals court to review.
  • Opening Brief: Your opening brief is due 40 days after the record on appeal is complete. This is your main chance to argue why your conviction or sentence should be overturned.
  • Reply Brief: You can file a reply brief within 21 days after the government files its response brief.

Missing any of these deadlines could result in your arguments being excluded or your appeal being dismissed. That’s why working with an appellate lawyer is so important – they will stay on top of all the filing deadlines and put your best case forward.

Talk to an Attorney About Your Deadlines

Every federal criminal appeal has multiple important deadlines you can’t afford to miss. So if you want to appeal, consult with a federal criminal appeals lawyer immediately. They can review your case, explain the timeline, and take action to preserve your rights.

With an experienced attorney guiding you, you can confidently navigate the complex federal appeals process. Don’t leave your appeal rights to chance – understand the deadlines and work with a lawyer to file the necessary documents on time.

How Long Does a Federal Criminal Appeal Take?

Once you file your notice of appeal and your appeal is underway, you’re probably wondering how long the process takes. Unfortunately, there’s no single answer because the timeline varies significantly between cases.

But here are some general time frames to expect for federal criminal appeals:

  • 6-12 months for a simple, straightforward appeal.
  • 12-18 months for a complex case with numerous issues and filings.
  • 18-24 months for very complex cases or those with extensions.

It also depends on how backlogged the particular federal appeals court is. Courts with a heavier caseload tend to take longer to issue decisions.

The appeal process itself has a lot of built-in delays. After all the briefs are filed, it generally takes months before oral argument is scheduled, if you get one. Then it’s more months before the appeals court issues its decision.

So while every case is different, most federal criminal appeals take over a year from start to finish. The appeal timeline overlaps with any sentence you received, so this is time you may end up serving while waiting for your appeal.

Ways to Expedite Your Federal Appeal

There are some things you can do to potentially speed up your federal criminal appeal:

  • Ask your lawyer to request expedited briefing and arguments.
  • Focus on one or two key issues instead of litigating every possible angle.
  • Work with your lawyer to submit filings early or ahead of deadlines.
  • Ask the court for priority consideration due to unusual circumstances in your case.

These steps can shave off months in some cases. But the appeals court ultimately controls the schedule, so there’s only so much you can do.

The best approach is being organized, working efficiently with your lawyer, and clearly explaining why your appeal should be decided quickly. This puts you in the best position to get a ruling faster.

Don’t Give Up Hope While Waiting

It’s frustrating to have your life on hold while your federal criminal appeal drags on. But don’t give up hope. Keep focusing on your appeal strategy and try to be patient.

Many appellants win reductions of their sentences or even complete reversals of their convictions after going through the appeal process. It can be worthwhile in the end.

Stay strong and know that your appeal is continuing to move forward, even if it feels slow. With an experienced appellate lawyer guiding you, many good outcomes are possible.

How Much Does It Cost to Appeal a Federal Criminal Conviction?

If you’ve been convicted of a federal crime and want to appeal, cost is probably a major factor in your decision. Appealing a federal conviction takes significant time and resources. So how much can you expect to pay in legal fees and costs if you decide to appeal your case?

Attorney Fees Are the Biggest Expense

By far the largest cost of a federal criminal appeal is the attorney fees to hire experienced appellate counsel. For a simple appeal, expect to pay at least $25,000 to $35,000 in legal fees. Complex appeals with multiple issues can cost $50,000 or more in attorney fees.

The experienced federal appellate lawyers who handle these specialized cases charge hourly rates ranging from $300 to $500 per hour. Those hours add up quickly over the many months (or years) an appeal takes. Be prepared for a significant investment.

Other Costs Add Up Too

On top of attorney fees, here are some other expenses to expect with a federal criminal appeal:

  • Filing fees when submitting motions and briefs
  • Travel for lawyer to attend oral argument
  • Copying, mailing, and other administrative costs
  • Transcript fees if trial transcripts are needed
  • Possible expert witness fees if experts are used

These costs often total a few thousand dollars on top of the attorney fees. So realistically, expect to spend $30,000 to $60,000 for a complete federal criminal appeal.

Can I Get the Government to Pay?

If you can’t afford these costs, you can request to proceed “in forma pauperis” (IFP) which means as an indigent. If approved, the government may pay for some appeal expenses like filing fees and transcripts.

However, the government will not pay your attorney fees. Getting declared indigent does not get you a free lawyer. You are still responsible for hiring and paying for your appellate attorney.

In some cases, you may qualify for appointed counsel under the Criminal Justice Act. But this is fairly rare in federal appeals since most defendants who go to trial get convicted and lose indigent status.

It’s an Investment in Your Freedom

The bottom line is that appealing a federal conviction is expensive. But it may be worth every penny if your appeal is successful. The cost is an investment in your freedom and clearing your record.

Weigh the costs carefully as you decide whether to appeal. If the long-term benefits outweigh the upfront costs, don’t let the price tag deter you from pursuing your appeal rights.

Ways to Reduce Your Appeal Costs

While federal appeals are inherently costly, here are some tips to try keeping fees and expenses in check:

  • Compare rates and find the most affordable competent lawyer you can.
  • Ask if a junior associate with lower billing rates can handle routine filings.
  • Discuss capping total fees or creating a flat-fee arrangement.
  • Only order trial transcripts you truly need.
  • Focus on your strongest 1-2 issues instead of litigating every angle.

Shop around, discuss budget honestly with your lawyer, and keep things streamlined. This will help control costs as much as possible for your federal criminal appeal.

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