What Happens In A Federal Criminal Appeal

For many people who have been convicted of a federal crime, what happens in a federal criminal appeal is a little confusing. In this short video, federal criminal defense attorney Matt Kaiser explains how what happens in a federal criminal appeal.

Whether you were convicted at trial and want to appeal the conviction, or you want to appeal a sentence in a federal criminal case, the steps are the same. This video explains what they are, and what has to happen for an appeal to be decided.

Video Transcript:

If you have been convicted and sentenced in federal court you may want to take an appeal. Here is a brief overview of how federal criminal appeals work.

The first thing that happens after sentencing is you have to file a notice of appeal. You got to file it within fourteen days of when the sentence is imposed or when the judgment comes down and the courts are very, very strict about that. That is one deadline you do not want to miss – one deadline you cannot miss.

After that’s filed you will have to file some docketing statements. These are initial statements with the court so that the clerk’s office knows how to handle the case. And the court reporter will have to prepare transcripts if they haven’t been prepared before.

After all of that’s done when the court will issue a briefing schedule and will give you about forty-five days to file your opening brief. In your opening brief your lawyer will lay out what happened to you in the trial court, what happened to you before, what was wrong with that and why the court should do something different. Why the court should order a different result. It's a lengthy document and it will contain a number of citations to things that happen before and to other cases. The opening brief will try to persuade the court that what happened to you is wrong or is illegal and needs to be addressed.

After your brief goes in the government will have time to file its brief. The government gets to file a brief too. They will respond to the arguments that you make and say this is wrong, this is right, this is what we think should happen.

After the government files a brief you will have a few weeks to file a reply brief. In that brief you will respond to the points the government made and reaffirm the points that you made in your opening brief.

After that the appeal goes to a panel of three judges, the three federal circuit judges who are appointed by the President. They sit in their job for life, they have life tenure. And they will look at the pleadings.

They may order oral argument or they may decide it without oral argument. If they order oral argument then your lawyer and the lawyer for the government will go and each get a chance to argue your case to those judges to say why you think the case should be reversed or why in the Government’s case they think it shouldn’t. And then the three judges will decide the case.

After they decide the party that lost might be able to ask the court to rehear the case, they might be able to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case and at the end of that process that’s the end of the appeal.