Federal Criminal Appeals Process

Getting convicted in federal court may appear to be the end of your case. However, if you believe you were wrongfully convicted at your trial, it is possible to file an appeal to either overturn the trial court’s decision or obtain a new trial, based on the circumstances of your case. 

An appeal is a legal process in which a higher court reviews a criminal conviction and sentence and ensure the trial (lower) courts correctly applied the law. When it comes to federal trials, there are two tiers of appeals court: the United States Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). 

The U.S. Courts of Appeals review judgments from each circuits’ district courts. On the other hand, the SCOTUS reviews judgments from the federal courts of appeals and the highest appeals courts throughout the nation. 

The following are common grounds for appeal: 

  • Improper admission or exclusion of evidence 

  • Lack of evidence to support a guilty verdict 

  • Juror or prosecutor misconduct 

  • Ineffective assistance of counsel 

  • Incorrect jury instructions 

  • Sentencing errors 

The appeals process starts by filing a notice of appeal within 14 days of the judgment. When the notice is filed, the Court of Appeals will set a schedule for filing briefs. 

The appellant – or the party appealing the case – must assemble the “record” on appeal by gathering transcripts of the lower court’s trial proceedings, such as any relevant motions that have been filed or trial exhibits. Each party must submit a brief that argues whether to affirm or reverse a judgment. 

A panel comprised of three judges will decide the case by reading the briefs and reviewing the record. While most federal appeals are decided solely on the briefs alone, a panel may request each party to present an oral argument. 

In the end, the appellate court issues a written decision, which includes a detailed opinion to explain the outcome. Federal criminal appeals can be a long process, lasting nine months or even years. 

Since reversing a decision through the appeals process is complex and rare, it is imperative to hire an experienced federal criminal attorney to review your case and determine whether you can obtain a favorable outcome. Martin G. Weinberg, Attorney at Law has more than 40 years of federal trial experience and has represented clients in over 20 federal district courts, eight U.S. Courts of Appeals, and in the U.S. Supreme Court. 

For more information about federal criminal appeals or our legal services, contact us today at (617) 227-3700