Everything You Need to Know About Hiring a Federal Appeals Attorney
If you have been convicted in a federal court then you might need to file a federal appeal. The first step in this process is to ensure that you have the right federal defense attorney on your side. You have found that in Chambers Law Firm. Keep reading to learn the basic facts you must know and then contact us at 714-760-4088 to request a consultation.
An Appeal isn’t the Same as a New Trial
The appeal procedure has a lot of shocks for laypeople. The most crucial point to remember, and one that many people are unaware of, is that an appeal is not about the facts of the case in any way save in the widest sense.
Appellate courts do not hear from witnesses, take evidence, or hold a new trial. Instead, the appeal court’s role is to examine the testimony and documents provided in the trial court in order to determine whether or not a legal error was made.
Was the Law Applied Correctly?
While the purpose of a trial is to discover the facts, the purpose of an appeal is to examine whether the law was applied correctly. As a result, it is sometimes stated that following a conviction, the attention moves from the facts to the law.
Unless the facts were newly found or the appeal is based on inadequate aid of counsel, it is not permissible to raise facts on appeal that were not presented to the trial court. Instead, the court of appeals will consider whether the given factual evidence was adequate to support a conviction under the Constitution, or if the verdict was against the evident weight of the evidence.
The court of appeals will also consider whether the trial court made any legal or procedural mistakes. Did the trial court, for example, make a mistake by permitting specific evidence to be given to the jury? Were any pre-trial motions incorrectly determined as a matter of law (such as a move to suppress evidence acquired from the defendant)?
Is there any evidence that the prosecution acted inappropriately, such as vouching for government witnesses, improperly commenting on a defendant’s choice not to testify, or making false claims in their closing argument? On a criminal appeal, these types of arguments, as well as those that focus on a specific legal point, are evaluated and decided.
Federal Appeals Can Take a Long Time
Many people who are unfamiliar with the federal criminal appeals procedure are often surprised by the length of time it takes to complete an appeal. The federal court system is highly overburdened, with each judge having to evaluate hundreds of cases each year.
While the judges have legal clerks and assistants to assist them in reviewing the files, each point presented in the appeal must finally be decided by the panel of three judges assigned to the appeal. This sometimes necessitates a thorough examination of the whole file, including the record of the testimony taken each day of what may have been a weeks – or months-long trial.
Judges are just human, after all, and can only work a certain number of hours each day, week, or month. Even after the papers are submitted and any oral arguments are heard, the decision in your case is likely to take months – if not a year or more – to be reached.
Try to remember that the courts are deliberating each case, including yours, at a leisurely pace. Finally, it is in your best interests for the court to take its time and carefully analyze each of the points that your counsel has identified as having the potential to lead an appellate court to overturn a conviction.
It Takes Time to Prepare a Federal Appeal
Keep in mind that preparing federal criminal appeals can take a long time. Writing a convincing, winning brief that will capture the court’s attention – and, ideally, persuade the court to accept oral argument on the appeal – necessitates extensive study and time spent writing and editing each point that must be presented.
Your federal appeals lawyer will also need to go over the trial transcript carefully in order to identify prospective appeals and cite to the testimony that he or she wants the appellate court to focus on. Expect the appeal process to take longer the more intricate your case is, the more defendants and charges were involved, and the longer the trial lasted.
Winning an Appeal Does Not Usually Mean that the Lower Court’s Decision Has Been Overturned
It’s crucial to remember that even if a conviction is overturned, the matter will almost always be brought back to the trial court to be tried again. It’s unusual for an appeal court to overturn a trial court’s decision in a criminal case, and it’s even rarer for that court to direct the trial court to enter an acquittal verdict.
This reality must be considered while determining whether or not to appeal a case; if you win, your “reward” will be a new trial, when the entire process will begin again. However, properly conducting your appeal can limit the number of problems that need to be resolved and give significant instructions for the trial court and the prosecution to follow in any subsequent trial.
Does a Federal Appeal Make Sense for Your Case?
If you are not sure if you should move forward with a federal appeal, we recommend you contact Chambers Law Firm at 714-760-4088 for a legal consultation. We can carefully review the basic facts of your case and advise on your options.