If you have just been convicted of a crime in Fort Lauderdale, you are probably experiencing a whole host of emotions. Many defendants who have been convicted feel hopeless, or even despondent. The stress of your trial has probably left a mark on you and now you might be looking at a serious prison sentence. If you have been convicted of a federal crime, you will need to hire an experienced federal criminal appeals lawyer.
You Have a Right to a Federal Criminal Appeal
A federal appeal is a legal process in which a higher court reviews a person’s criminal conviction and sentence. There is no guaranteed constitutional right to appeal when it comes to criminal cases. Nonetheless, every state, including Florida, as well as the federal government have enacted laws that give higher courts the right to review lower court judgments. Federal appeals courts review the decisions of trial court judges to make sure that they applied the laws correctly.
There are two tiers of criminal appeals. The United States Courts of Appeals reviews district court judgments from their circuits. The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest federal appellate court in the United States. The Supreme Court reviews the judgments of the federal courts of appeals circuits.
Federal Criminal Appeals do Not Reevaluate the Facts of the Case
One of the most important things to know is that the federal appeals process is often lengthy. Despite the time involved in a federal criminal appeals court, federal criminal court appellate judges do not re-try the entire case. For example, the judge reviewing your federal criminal court review will not hold another trial with witnesses and evidence. Instead, the judge will review the written legal arguments from your criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor and then make a decision on the legal arguments involved.
Appellate Courts are Different From Trial Courts
Many times, convicted criminal defendants expect to attend court again for their appeal. When it comes to criminal appeals, there is no trial. Appellate courts do not listen to “evidence” or any testimony like trial courts do. The only in-person court appearances involve motions and attorneys making legal arguments based on the alleged errors of the trial court below. Your criminal appeals lawyer will argue that the judge made such a serious error that you are entitled to a retrial or to have your case dismissed. The prosecuting lawyer will claim that the trial court did not make an error serious enough to warrant any changes. By the time you hire a federal criminal appeals lawyer, the facts in your criminal case have already been “set in stone.”
Federal Criminal Appeals are Slow Moving
At Solomon Appeals, Mediation & Arbitration, we know how important it is for our clients to seek justice. Many of our clients understandably want their conviction to be reversed immediately. Unfortunately, the federal criminal appeals process can be frustratingly slow. In most cases, federal criminal appeals take several months, if not years. The federal courts are crowded and the appeals process is slow, by nature. For the most part, courts consider every legal claim individually which takes a significant amount of time.
Many federal criminal appeals courts do accept briefs electronically, and technology has sped up the process somewhat. Nonetheless, appellate judges are human beings and it takes them time to review all of the evidence from the trial court as well as carefully consider all of the legal arguments made by both parties. Even though the slow process is incredibly frustrating, it is necessary for our justice system that appellate judges spend enough time carefully reviewing every decision.
Most Criminal Appeals are Resolved Based on Written Legal Arguments
Most federal criminal appellate cases nationwide are resolved without any oral argument. This means that most federal court judges make a decision based on the legal briefs submitted by each party. Legal briefs are legal arguments written down as motions. As the defendant, your lawyer will submit the opening or principal brief. You as the appellant, or the party appealing, will provide the court with your brief.
The first brief will provide an objective summary of the facts of your case. It will then present persuasive arguments that the trial court judge made specific legal errors. The brief will need to contend that the legal errors warrant the judge requiring a new trial. Your lawyer will support each legal argument with a citation to previous decisions made by appellate court judges, the constitution, or federal law.
After you submit your opening brief, the federal government will file a responding brief that also contains a statement of facts and answers to any of the legal arguments made by your attorney. The government will be called the appellee in federal criminal appellate cases. The appellee also needs to support all of their arguments with citations to legal precedent, the Constitution, and laws.
In most courts, you will have the opportunity to file a brief answer to the government’s responding arguments. These three legal briefs make up the requirements for briefing in the most federal criminal appeals process. Each court will impose certain time limits in which the attorneys must submit each brief.
You Need an Experienced Federal Criminal Appeals Lawyer on Your Side
Federal appellate courts are well-known for their rigid standards. Every federal appellate court has extremely stringent technical requirements. Your lawyer will need to format and bind the briefs in a particular way. They will need to use a specific font and paper size as well, and that only covers the technical requirements. When it comes to the argumentation itself, you need an appellate lawyer with experience crafting well-written and compelling criminal appeals arguments.
If you have been convicted of a federal crime, Solomon Appeals, Mediation & Arbitration can help. Contact us as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can advocate for you throughout the criminal appeals process.
Donna Greenspan Solomon, Esq., handles business-related litigation and appeals (state and federal), mediation, and arbitration.