Being investigated or charged with a federal crime is a frightening experience. However, even if you are convicted of a federal crime, you can still protect your right to appeal if you move quickly. The best way to protect your appellate rights is to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney as soon as you suspect that you’re being investigated.
Choose Your Trial Attorney Wisely
A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney will take proactive steps to build your case. Your attorney should review the prosecutor’s case in detail. There are times when the government may be guilty of breaking laws themselves in a federal investigation. Identifying those types of issues will let you enter the court proceeding from a position of strength.
Your attorney will conduct their own investigation, reviewing police reports, witness testimony and more. If none of the investigation your attorney performs results in a dismissal of charges, you may want to consider a negotiated plea agreement. If that isn’t an appropriate approach, your attorney will be well prepared to represent you aggressively during a trial.
Your Attorney Must Protect Your Appellate Rights During Trial
Court proceedings operate under a long list of very strict procedural rules. It’s important that the attorney who represents you at trial is very familiar with those rules and follows them to the letter.
For example, during your trial, your counsel must object to errors quickly and state the reason for the objection. This gives the court a chance to correct the error right away. If your attorney doesn’t handle objections properly, they won’t be “preserved” for appeal. In the heat of courtroom proceedings, an inexperienced attorney may not follow proper procedures. Therefore, it’s critical that you have an experienced attorney handling your trial.
You Must Notify the Court of Your Intention to Appeal on a Timely Basis
The law states that you must file a Federal Notice of Appeal within 10 days after entry of the judgment. A Federal appeal isn’t a constitutional right. If the Notice of Appeal isn’t filed on a timely basis, you may lose your right to appeal. Even if you’re not sure whether you want to appeal, it’s a good idea to file the notice within the deadline. You can dismiss the appeal later if needed.
There are a number of issues that can be raised during an appeal in a Federal Criminal Appeal.
- Pretrial Motions. Motions that were decided for the prosecution.
- Issues of Evidence. If not all the evidence was admitted to the record, for example, if someone was prevented from testifying at your trial.
- Sufficiency of Evidence. It’s difficult to win this motion, but if you don’t feel the prosecution presented enough evidence to win, you could appeal on that basis.
- Sentencing. You can appeal the sentence if you feel that the judge didn’t follow the rules or listen to your arguments that would affect sentencing.
Keep in mind that a federal appeal doesn’t consist of revisiting the issues in the trial. The trial transcript presents the facts of your trial. For a federal appeal, you and your attorney must identify legal errors made during the trial, as described in the trial transcript.
Your Appeal Brief Should Be Compelling
Some federal appeals are decided by a panel of judges without any contact with the people involved. Your attorney and the government attorneys write briefs that the panel of judges will then evaluate.
If your attorney raises compelling legal issues in the brief, the judges may grant oral argument. This is another chance for your attorney to convince the judges of the weight of your reasons for the appeal.
Being convicted of a federal crime isn’t the end of the process. If you have a knowledgeable attorney handling your trial and the appeal process, you will have the opportunity to impact the final outcome.