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NYC Federal Criminal Lawyers

By Spodek Law Group | June 17, 2019
(Last Updated On: May 27, 2023)

Last Updated on: 27th May 2023, 12:17 pm

If you want to appeal your federal criminal case, you should first understand what that means. Federal appeals aren’t granted to review the facts of the case. The appeal in not a retrial but a review of the legal processes followed by the judge and prosecutor in the original trial.
If the judge made questionable rulings that didn’t follow legal precedents, you might have grounds for appeal. Most legal appeals take place outside of the courtroom. Both the prosecution and the defense provide legal briefs to support their arguments.

Notice of Appeal

A Notice of Appeal is not the actual appeal but an indication that an appeal will likely be filed. This document puts both sides on notice that an appeal is being considered. This notice is short and includes the reasons that an appeal might be filed. The Notice of Appeal must generally be filed within 10 days of the judgment.
Some defendants panic after learning that a Notice of Appeal must be filed within 10 days in the belief that they must prepare their entire case within the deadline. Like all legal procedures, federal appeals grind slowly, so the defense team have plenty of time to prepare. However, it’s important not to wait until the deadline to file your Notice of Appeal – unexpected circumstances that cause a delay could cost kill your chance to appeal.

Commonly Used Grounds for Federal Appeals

The most common grounds for federal appeals include the following errors in legal procedure:

  • False Arrest
    False arrest is a legal reason for appealing a guilty judgment. False arrests occur when law enforcement officers arrest someone without a warrant or probable cause.
  • Lack of Evidence
    The lack of real evidence doesn’t always result in a “not guilty” verdict. If the evidence in thin or entirely circumstantial, appeals can be granted for a lack of legally acceptable evidence.
  • Improper Jury Instructions
    Judges are required to explain the options for convicting a defendant in a criminal case. If the judge fails to mention the options of lighter sentences or the elements necessary to convict, the instructions are improper and grounds for an appeal.
  • Admission of Improper Evidence or Exclusion of Valid Evidence
    In criminal trials, there is always an early hearing to determine what evidence will be allowed and what will be excluded. The judge decides on the evidentiary value and relevance for both sides. The admission of illegally obtained evidence or the exclusion of relevant evidence constitutes grounds for an appeal.
  • Juror Misconduct
    Courts spend a lot of time choosing jury members. Jurors are under the strictest guidelines to be impartial and not discuss the case before retiring to consider a verdict. Juror misconduct – such as taking a bribe, discussing the case out of court or holding a grudge against the defendant – is a solid reason for appealing a judgment.

In order to appeal, it’s usually necessary that the defendant’s lawyer objected to the improper procedure during the original trial.

Prepare for Delays

Federal appeals seldom result in quick justice for wrongfully convicted defendants. The process is slow and mostly handled by lawyers, so getting information on your appeal might take a long time. The lawyers must have time to research precedents and counter the possible objections of opposing counsel. The entire trial is usually reviewed by the defense, prosecution and judge.
Most appeals are resolved on the basis of the legal briefs prepared by both sides – about 75 percent of the total federal appeals. That means there will be no big court case. Many defendants expect to be exonerated in a flood of media attention, but that’s unlikely in most cases. Overturning a decision based on certain legal grounds doesn’t absolve you of guilt or prove your innocence.
Most successful appeals, however, come from oral arguments. Finding a lawyer who’s knowledgeable about the appeals process is an important step. There are many things that a skilled appellate lawyer can do to encourage oral arguments.
Federal criminal cases work in the following manner:
The Investigation
Federal criminal cases begin with an investigation. Some of the agencies that investigate federal crimes include the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Officials with these agencies are in charge of investigating crimes, so they provide the evidence for the prosecution.
The investigators search for two different types of evidence. One is direct evidence, and the other is circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is evidence that doesn’t require corroboration, and circumstantial evidence is evidence that is indirect.
Charging the Suspect
The prosecutor examines the evidence and determines whether or not to present the case to the grand jury. This will be required if the suspect will be charged with a felony. The suspect will be notified that he or she is the subject of a criminal investigation. Then, the prosecutor presents the case to the grand jury. The grand jury listens to the witnesses and examines documentary evidence and then decides whether or not there is sufficient evidence to charge the suspect with a crime.
The Initial Hearing
The initial hearing takes place after law enforcement officials arrest the suspect. The defendant will be formally charged and taken before a judge. The judge may order the defendant to remain in prison until the trial begins, or he or she may grant the suspect bail. This is also the time when the suspect will be asked to enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.”
The Discovery Phase
At this point, the prosecution prepares to take the case to trial. It begins with interviewing the witnesses to find out what they will say in court. The prosecution also prepares by reading the reports connected to the case. These reports help the prosecutor determine what the facts are and how to proceed.
Discovery is when the prosecutor sends the defendant’s attorney copies of the evidence and other materials. It is the prosecutor’s obligation to provide these documents while the case is going on. If a prosecutor fails to do this, he or she may be sanctioned by the court. The prosecutor must also present the defense with exculpatory evidence that points toward the accused person’s innocence. Failure to do this would result in a new trial for the defendant.
The Plea Bargain
At this point, the prosecutors may offer the defendant a plea deal. They do this when they believe that they have a strong case against the defendant. It is also an opportunity for the defendant to reduce his or her chances of being subject to a lengthy prison term. In order to take this deal, the defendant must admit guilt in court, but he must not do this if he is not guilty. Then, the judge will sentence the perpetrator.
The Preliminary Hearing
If the accused decides to plead “not guilty,” the next step will be to hold a preliminary hearing. This is the time when the prosecutor demonstrates that there is sufficient evidence to charge the suspect with the crime. You may choose to waive this portion of the case.
During the preliminary hearing, the prosecutor presents evidence and calls witnesses to testify. The defense attorney also has the chance to cross-examine the witnesses. During this time, the defense is not allowed to object to any evidence that the prosecution presents.
The judge may determine that the prosecution presented enough evidence to show that the accused committed the crime. In that case, the judge will schedule a time for the trial. In the event that the judge does not agree that the prosecution demonstrated that the accused perpetrated the crime, he or she will dismiss the charges.
The Pre-Trial Motion
The defense attorney or the prosecutor has the opportunity to file motions. The judge will be charged with deciding these motions before the trial can begin. Examples of motions include the motion for a change of venue, the motion to suppress evidence and the motion to dismiss the case.
The Trial
During the trial, the prosecutor presents the facts to the jury, and the jury decides whether or not the defendant is guilty. The prosecutor uses witnesses and evidence to demonstrate that the defendant is guilty, and the defense attorney uses witnesses and evidence to demonstrate that the defendant is not guilty. At the end of the trial, the judge gives the jury its instructions for how it is to make its decision, and the jurors are dismissed to begin deliberating. At the end of the deliberations, the jury reads its verdict in open court. If the verdict is “not guilty,” the defendant is free to go home.
The Post-Trial Motion
In the event that the jury finds the defendant guilty, the defense attorney may file post-trial motions. For example, the defense attorney may file a motion for judgment of acquittal in which the defendant will be allowed to go free after the judge sets the jury’s verdict aside.
The Sentencing Phase
The judge sentences the convicted individual during this phase.
The Appeal
If he or she believes that the conviction was unfair or that the sentence was too harsh, the convicted individual may appeal the conviction.

To appeal a federal criminal case, follow these steps:

1. Understand the appeals process: The federal appeals process is a review of the legal procedures followed by the judge and prosecutor in the original trial, rather than a retrial of the case. It is crucial to determine if there were any legal errors made in the initial trial.

2. File a Notice of Appeal within 10 days of the judgment: This document must include the reasons for considering the appeal and serves as a critical first step in the process. The appeal itself will be filed later and will provide extensive legal briefs from both the defense and prosecution.

3. Establish grounds for appeal: Common grounds for federal appeals include false arrest, lack of evidence, improper jury instructions, admission of improper evidence, or exclusion of valid evidence, and juror misconduct. The defendant’s lawyer must have objected to these during the original trial.

4. Prepare for delays: Appeals often take a long time due to extensive research and legal arguments. The defense, prosecution, and judge typically review the entire trial. Around 75% of federal appeals are resolved based on the legal briefs, with the remaining cases involving oral arguments.

5. Engage a knowledgeable appellate lawyer: A skilled appellate lawyer can help strengthen your case by providing well-reasoned arguments and navigating the complex appeals process.

6. Be prepared for the outcome: Overturning a decision based on legal grounds does not necessarily absolve one of guilt or prove innocence. However, successful appeals can result in a more favorable outcome for defendants.

Remember, federal criminal cases involve several stages, including the investigation, charging the suspect, the initial hearing, the discovery phase, the plea bargain, the preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, the trial, post-trial motions, sentencing, and appeal. Navigating this process requires the expertise of experienced legal professionals.

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