Federal Appeals

Helping address errors and rights violations at trial

Our criminal justice system has multiple levels of review intended to ensure that unjust convictions and sentences do not stand. This means that even if you have stood trial and have been convicted of a federal crime, you still have options. A direct appeal to a higher court gives you the chance to seek redress for prejudicial errors that occurred during your trial and potentially changed the outcome. However, appellate practice is vastly different from trial practice and requires the services of an experienced federal criminal appeals lawyer.

What is a federal criminal appeal?

During federal appeals in criminal cases, a defendant who was convicted of a federal crime at trial has the opportunity to identify prejudicial errors that occurred during the trial and affected its outcome. These errors can appear in a variety of forms:

  • Improper admission of evidence
  • Prosecutorial misconduct
  • Incorrect jury instructions
  • Violations of the defendant’s rights
  • Ineffective assistance of counsel
  • Abuse of discretion by the judge
  • Misapplications of sentencing guidelines

Appellate courts do not accept new evidence or hear new witnesses. They examine the record of the trial along with thorough briefs of argument submitted by each party. In some cases, the court may also allow the parties to present a brief oral argument, although this is somewhat rare. A panel of three judges on a U.S. court of appeals considers the record and the arguments and renders a majority decision as to whether the result of the trial below was correct or there were errors that need to be addressed.

A decision by a court of appeal panel may be reheard by the entire court sitting en banc or may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, while a defendant has a right to a first appeal, subsequent appeals to a higher court are discretionary and are often not granted unless the case raises important issues of law.

What are the potential results of an appeal?

In many cases, appellate courts determine that no error occurred during the trial or that any error that did occur had no influence on the outcome, resulting in the decision being affirmed. In some cases, however, the reviewing court may find that a prejudicial error did occur and remand the case for retrial. In very rare cases, an appellate court may vacate a conviction entirely, without a retrial, although this almost never occurs.

Direct appeal is not a convicted defendant’s only option. There are other types of post-conviction relief available. However, because a direct appeal is often a defendant’s best chance for getting a new trial, and because these options are not mutually exclusive, an appeal is almost always the right decision.

Challenge an unjust conviction in federal court

When your freedom is at stake, take advantage of every reasonable legal option that is open to you. If you have been convicted in a federal court and are interested in obtaining review of your case, Please contact Managing Partner Daniel Conidi for a free consultation at Dconidi@alliantlaw.us