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Todd Spodek (Managing Partner)

Mr. Spodek decided early on in his life to focus his education and experience on trial work. Todd Spodek attended Northeastern University in Boston, MA and majored in criminal justice. This background provided an indispensable tool in the representation of criminal defendants in grand jury investigations, pre-trial hearings, trial, appeals and navigating the corrections process.…

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NYC Federal Appeals Lawyers

The Process Of Filling a Federal Criminal Appeal

The prospect of any criminal conviction is not an appealing one. When you combine that with the reality of being found guilty of a federal crime, the anxiety and feeling of hopelessness can be rather overwhelming. This is why it is so important to take a deep breath and consider your options on appeal. While this does not mean that you get a new trial, it does mean that you have the right to argue that an injustice of some sort was committed during the trial. You will need a competent to take care of this process for you, and a whole lot of patience.

Just What Is A Federal Appeal?

During a federal criminal trial, many procedural points of law must converge all at once to constitute the formal court proceedings. There are times when legal issues come up that are not properly dealt with during the trial, and possibly certain injustices that were committed that need to be considered. Either you were ruled against on these matters during the trial, or they only came to light shortly after the verdict was announced. Whatever the case might be, you may have grounds to appeal the verdict based on this.

You need to know that this does not mean that you can introduce new evidence, call witnesses back to the stand, or re-do certain portions of the trial in any way. This is not what an appeal is. You will need to have a lawyer ready to write legal briefs that are then sent to the Appellate court to be examined and the merits of those arguments decided upon. Once that is done, you will have to wait until a decision is ultimately rendered.

It All Begins With A Simple Notice

It is very important that you understand how to start the appeals process. You cannot simply tell the judge that you wish to appeal your guilty verdict. There needs to be a reason that is solidly grounded in legal theory. This is why it is so important to immediately consult with an attorney who has experience successfully filing federal criminal appeals. Keep in mind that this is an exhaustive process, so you will make sure that your attorney is on board with you before an appeal is ever filed.

To begin, your lawyer will need to file a Notice of Appeal. This is not the actual appeal itself, as that can actually take months to draft. What the notice provides in an indication to the Appellate Court that an appeal is coming from your side. This is a simple one or two page written document that outlines your basis for appeal. That must be filed within ten days of the verdict being announced. This is a strict deadline, so do not miss it. Make sure you have your lawyer ready to file that notice at the first possible opportunity.

What Happens Next?

It needs to be noted that the appeals process is not quick. You should not be under the impression that your conviction can be quickly over turned, or that a new trial could be called for. The process simply does not work like that. You will need to wait while your lawyers file all of the necessary briefs to establish the basis for your appeal. While much of this is done electronically today, you must still wait for your case to actually be reviewed by the court. This could take over a year, during which time you will be forced to wait in order to find out what your future holds for you.

If you have been convicted of a federal crime, speak with a federal appeals attorney right away. You need someone with experience and someone who understands how the system works. This is how you will be in the best position possible to hopefully have your conviction overturned on appeal.

When a Federal Criminal Appeal is Not the Right Solution

Sometimes appellate lawyers have a hard time getting clients to understand jurisprudence as it relates to moving forward with a case. There are instances when a client might want to file an appeal, without fully understanding the different outcomes that are possible. The reality is that winning an appeal does not always yield the anticipated relief or desired results.

What most clients imagine will happen is that an appeal will be granted that results in an acquittal due to insufficient evidence or some other legal problem that exists in the case. They often hope that the conviction will be vacated by the appellate court and all charges will be dismissed. While there is a possibility that this scenario will play out, it’s not something that happens with any level of frequency. In fact, it’s fair to say that all charges are rarely dismissed.

The reason why it’s so common for clients to have this idealized version of reality in their mind is because there isn’t always a clear understanding of why the appellate court exists. It’s important to clarify that the appellate process is for the purpose of identifying trial errors and it does not provide an opportunity to retry the case or submit new information. What the appellate court will assess is whether errors such as incorrect jury instructions or any other procedural violation took place in the district court. The facts of the case are already set in stone and will not change during the appeal. That simply is not the purpose of an appeal.

In the event that an error or multiple errors resulted in the appellate court reversing a conviction, the result will more than likely be a new trial. This essentially provides an opportunity to have a trial that’s absent of prior errors made by the district court. When a new trial is granted, the client is in the same position as before. There’s also a good chance that the case will be tried in the same court. Yes, there are benefits associated with having a new trial. However, it’s important to understand that a new trail means you are starting from scratch.

Optimism is important and counsel should anticipate and work towards a different result than what was achieved in the first trial. Nevertheless, from a statistical point of view, there’s a good chance that the second trial will have the same outcome as the first trial. On rare occasions, the government decides not to try the case again, which can happen for a variety of different reasons. It’s worth noting that there’s also the possibility of receiving a plea offer that’s better than what may have been available during the first trial, which is certainly of great value and should be considered a win.

Another positive note is the potential for a motion to suppress evidence that was a critical part of why a conviction was won in the first trial. There have been many cases where the suppression of evidence changed the outcome of the case the second time around, which is truly considered a victory. While there are often hopes that this will be the outcome, it certainly isn’t something that happens frequently. The bottom line is that all parties involved should understand the potential outcomes and what’s likely to happen during the appellate process. This starts with knowing what a federal criminal appeal examines and the different scenarios that might occur if it’s granted. It’s a matter of making sure everyone is informed and setting realistic expectations.

While some might say that it’s always prudent to appeal a conviction, that’s not true or realistic. There are many instances when it simply does not make sense to move forward with an appeal, especially when there were no errors at the district court that need to be corrected. After all, that is the purpose of the appellate court. Although it’s sometimes difficult to communicate this information to a client, it’s often necessary.

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