The Federal Criminal Appeal Process

Upon conviction a defendant to a federal criminal prosecution can appeal the judgment claiming that something was done improperly at trial. Appeals by the government are limited by the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which prohibits “double jeopardy.” Ordinarily, a defendant cannot be tried more than once for the same offense. Therefore, appeals at the close of a federal prosecution are limited to the defendant.

An appeal requests that a higher court, the Circuit Court of Appeals or even the U.S. Supreme Court, review the transcript of the trial and evidence to determine if the procedures were fair and followed statutory and constitutional parameters.

Some common issues reviewed on appeal

The types of issues reviewed on appeal include:

      • How the district court trial judge managed the trial, plea, or sentencing
      • Evidentiary rulings that affected what evidence could be presented, which witnesses testified, and about what
      • Instructions given to the jury to help them determine whether the facts presented satisfied all the statutory elements of the crime charged

Unlike the trial, the appeals process does not involve a public hearing with sworn witnesses and testimony. The appellate court is made up of three federal judges and relies upon the written record of the trial court and any briefs that the defendant’s lawyer and government submit to frame their arguments.

Most appeals have short public arguments, 30 minutes long, where the attorneys answer questions posed by the judges to help them decide the issues. Oral argument is when counsel highlights the most compelling arguments as to why the trial was fair or unfair. Most appeals are unsuccessful and recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have limited the grounds for appeal and the remedies for mistakes at trial.

Talk to a skilled federal crimes defense lawyer

You have the right to legal counsel during all phases of a criminal prosecution, even post-conviction. Don’t forgo that right. Call (305) 403-7323 or reach out to federal criminal defense attorney Nayib Hassan online to discuss your case and your needs.