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When Do You Need a Federal Criminal Appellate Attorney?

When Do You Need a Federal Criminal Appellate Attorney?

If you or a loved one have been convicted of a federal crime, you may be wondering if you need a federal criminal appellate attorney to appeal your case. Appeals can be complicated, with strict deadlines and complex rules, so having an experienced attorney to guide you through the process is highly recommended. Here’s an overview of when you’ll need a federal criminal appellate lawyer:

After a Conviction at Trial

If you went through a full trial and were convicted by a jury, an appeal of that conviction is often the next step. The trial court makes many discretionary decisions throughout the trial process – on evidence, jury instructions, motions, etc. – so there may be grounds for an appeal if any of those decisions were incorrect or unfairly prejudiced you. An appellate attorney can review the court record and identify the best issues to raise on appeal to try to get your conviction overturned.

After Pleading Guilty

You can still appeal after pleading guilty, which many defendants do to get a lighter sentence. Appeals after guilty pleas are limited compared to after a trial conviction, but issues like sentencing errors or ineffective counsel can still be appealed. An experienced federal criminal appeals lawyer can advise if you have grounds to appeal after a guilty plea.

After Sentencing

Sentencing is a major phase of federal criminal cases and is very complex, involving the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and judicial discretion. Errors frequently occur that can lead to overly harsh sentences. From miscalculating your guideline range to failing to properly consider the factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), there may be grounds for a sentencing appeal if the court made a mistake in imposing your sentence.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

If you feel your defense lawyer did not effectively represent you at trial or during plea negotiations, raising ineffective assistance of counsel is grounds for an appeal. It is a very common issue raised on appeal. However, the standard for proving ineffective assistance is quite demanding, so having an experienced federal criminal appellate lawyer argue this issue is critical.

Prosecutorial Misconduct

Prosecutors are held to high ethical standards, but misconduct unfortunately occurs at times during federal trials—like failing to turn over exculpatory evidence, making improper statements in court, using false testimony, or engaging in vindictive prosecutions. These actions violate defendants’ constitutional rights. If you feel prosecutorial misconduct occurred in your case, an appellate attorney can raise this issue to try to reverse your conviction.

Unreasonable Searches or Seizures

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. If evidence was collected from you as the result of an unlawful search—such as through a defective search warrant or problematic consent—then that evidence should not have been allowed at your trial. An appeal arguing your Fourth Amendment rights were violated may lead to your conviction being overturned if the appellate court agrees the search was illegal.

Speedy Trial Violations

The U.S. Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to a speedy trial. However, delays frequently happen in the federal system that may violate your rights, especially due to the complex nature of many federal cases. If your trial occurred beyond the 70-day deadline required under federal law, an appeal arguing your speedy trial rights were violated could overturn your conviction.

Harsh Prison Conditions

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. If you are subjected to exceptionally harsh conditions in prison—like deprivation of food, assault by guards, or lack of medical care—you may have grounds for an appeal even after your conviction based on constitutional violations related to your imprisonment.

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