Covered by NYDaily News. Las Vegas man accused of threatening a prominent attorney and making vile remarks.
Covered by New York Times, and other outlets. Fake heiress accused of conning the city’s wealthy, and has an HBO special being made about her.
Accused of stalking Alec Baldwin. The case garnered nationwide attention, with USAToday, NYPost, and other media outlets following it closely.
Juror who prompted calls for new Ghislaine Maxwell trial turns to lawyer who defended Anna Sorokin.
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Last Updated on: 27th October 2023, 06:56 pm
Dealing with the legal system can be real confusing and intimidating for regular folks like you and me. This article aims to explain federal sentencing and appeals in simple terms, so you can understand your rights and options if you ever find yourself in this situation.
First off, sentencing happens after you’ve either pled guilty or been found guilty at trial. The judge decides your sentence based on things like:
The judge has to explain why they gave you the sentence they did. Some things they might consider are:
After you’re sentenced, you can file an appeal if you think the trial court made some legal mistake, like letting in evidence they shouldn’t have or giving you a super harsh sentence. The appeals court won’t retry your whole case or hear new evidence – they just look at the record from the original trial and sentencing to see if some clear error happened.
To start an appeal, your lawyer has to file a “notice of appeal” within 10 days of your sentencing. This tells the court you plan to appeal. Next, the court reporters have to prepare transcripts of everything that was said at your trial and sentencing. Your lawyer will get copies of the transcripts and court documents and will write up a “brief” explaining why they think the trial court screwed up and why your conviction or sentence should be overturned.
The government gets to write their own brief arguing why your conviction and sentence were totally fine and should be upheld. Your lawyer may get to write a reply to their brief if they make some argument you want to respond to.
Eventually the appeals court will schedule an oral argument where each side’s lawyers get up and summarize their main arguments to the judges. The judges may ask questions about the case and challenge each side’s claims. After oral arguments, the judges will privately discuss the case and one will be assigned to write the court’s opinion.
The appeals court opinion will explain their decision and the legal reasoning behind it. If they find some error that affected your case, they might:
But if the appeals court decides the trial court didn’t make any major mistakes, they’ll affirm your conviction and sentence. At that point you’re basically out of luck, unless the Supreme Court decides to take your case, which is super rare.
There’s all kinds of issues that might come up in an appeal. Here’s some of the big ones:
Your lawyer has to raise any issues in your first appeal or else you might be barred from bringing them up later. Overall, appeals are hard to win – most convictions and sentences are affirmed. But it’s still important to exercise your right to appeal if you think the trial court got it wrong.
When making a plea deal, prosecutors will sometimes ask defendants to waive their right to appeal as part of the bargain. This means you agree not to file an appeal at all. This takes away your ability to challenge issues later, so think carefully before agreeing to it.
In some cases, you might be able to appeal only certain limited issues after a waiver, like if the judge sentences you above the agreed guideline range. Your lawyer can advise whether a waiver would be enforceable and if it’s worth signing away your rights.
Sentences can be appealed even after pleading guilty, unless your plea deal included an appeal waiver. The judge has to explain on the record why they chose the sentence, so the appeals court can review if they properly considered the sentencing factors and followed the right procedures.
If the appeals court finds the sentence unreasonable or that the judge miscalculated the guidelines, they may order a new sentencing hearing with a different judge. But they give a lot of deference to the original judge’s discretion, so sentencing appeals are hard to win.
After you’ve gone through the direct appeal process, you can file a habeas corpus petition. This is a civil court action claiming your conviction or sentence violated your constitutional rights. For example, you could argue your lawyer was so bad it violated your right to counsel.
Habeas appeals are limited to major constitutional issues – you can’t just rehash arguments that were already rejected on direct appeal. There’s also a 1 year deadline after your conviction becomes final to file the habeas petition, so don’t wait too long.
The appeals process can be complicated even for lawyers, much less regular folks like you and me. But I hope this plain English guide helps you understand the basics if you ever need to know. And remember – you got rights under the law, even if the system seems stacked against you. So talk to your lawyer and fight for justice if you believe in your case!
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