Typically, after your federal case is over and you've been sentenced, you have to file a Notice of Appeal. This is filing a notice that you want to appeal the case. The defendant has a right to file an appeal, as well as to either hire an attorney, represent themselves, or get an attorney appointed for them.
It is not a good idea to try to handle your own appeal, especially at the federal level, unless you have a lot of experience. You're going to make some sort of a mistake or not have an effective argument, which means you're just going to be wasting your time.
If you've got a criminal case at the federal level and you end up getting convicted, you always are going to have the right to appeal, especially if your lawyer wasn't effective or someone violated one of your rights. However, if you work out a plea agreement with the prosecutors, there's usually going to be a stipulation in that plea agreement that your appeal rights are limited.
This cuts down your rights, significantly. In most circumstances, you're not going to be able to appeal the case because of that stipulation in your plea agreement. Regardless, if your attorney does not represent you effectively or the judge goes above and beyond the maximum sentence, you can appeal.
Your best bet is to take your plea agreement to an appellate lawyer, let them know what happened, let them talk to the attorney who represented you in the lower court, and they'll be in the best position to advise you whether or not it's a good idea to appeal your federal conviction.
What Actually Happens In A Federal Appeals Case?
First, a notice of appeal is filed. You can then hire your own lawyer. That lawyer will file an opening brief with the court. The lawyer will get a transcript from the trial or a transcript from the plea. They will look through that to determine whether or not they can see any errors by the court or prosecutor.
They're going to look at your plea agreement. Once they've reviewed everything, they can make the decision whether or not the opening brief is worth filing. Once that brief is filed, the other side can file a response to it. Ultimately, it's going to be put in front of appellate judges and they're going to decide whether or not there's a real issue related to your appeal.
They're going to decide whether or not there was an error and whether or not your rights were violated. If there was an area of your rights that were violated, they will decide whether it had a significant impact on your case such that you should get a new trial or some other remedy.
Different federal appellate lawyers charge different prices, depending on what they have to do, where the case is, and how long the trial was. If you're talking about a month long trial, that's a huge transcript that lawyer is going to have to go through.
Complex issues in a case can make the appellate lawyer's job much harder as well. Talking to your criminal defense attorney at the federal level will probably dictate what the appellate lawyer is going to charge you.
If you were negotiating with the government and you agreed to sign a plea agreement, you plead guilty to criminal charges, and you agreed that your appeal rights would be limited. You're going to have a tough row to hoe trying to undo that, once you've agreed to it.
This is something you're going to want to speak to your attorney about. It's going to depend on why you signed that agreement and what you believed the agreement meant. Typically, you're not going to be able to undo a plea agreement but that doesn't completely give up all your appellate rights.
If there's a scenario where they are sentencing you to a sentence that's far above what the judge is permitted to sentence you to, you can still appeal, regardless of what the plea agreement says. Sit down with a lawyer who does appeals, give them all the information, don't leave anything out, and let them help you decide whether it makes sense for you to try to appeal. If you are able to undo your plea, you may even put yourself in a worse position.
How Long Does The Federal Criminal Appeal Process Generally Take?
A federal appeal can take a number of months. It depends on what jurisdiction you are in and the length of the transcript that your lawyer has to go through. It also depends on the type of issues that your attorney is going to litigate on your behalf. Your attorney should go through with you the type of issues there are to appeal in your case, whether or not it makes sense to actually go down the appellate road, and how long it may take.
You can get out of jail while your appeal is going on. It's not easy to do and it's going to be up to the judge who sentenced you, but it's possible. It requires a motion, which is going to have to be filed and argued by your lawyer. You've got to have a good argument to stay out of custody while your appeal is pending.
Talk to your appellate lawyer and lay out everything you know about the case, so that they can help you make an informed decision about whether or not it is worthwhile to attempt to stay out of jail while your appeal is going on.
What happens after you win your appeal depends upon what grounds your appeal was granted on. You may be entitled to a new trial. The appellate court may order the trial to be retried in front of that court or another court. The appellate court can order that the trial court resentence you to a certain sentence or order that the trial court resentence you based on new information.
If you are unsuccessful in your federal criminal appeal, you're probably going to have to serve out your sentence, unless there's a possibility that you could go to a higher court than the appellate court that decided your case. This will be up to you and your appellate attorney. You are going to want to sit down with them and discuss whether it makes sense to attempt to go to another court or not. A lot of times, people will challenge it to the next higher court, even with no chance of winning.