A person convicted in federal court of a federal crime has a right to a direct appeal of the conviction and sentence before a three-judge panel in a federal Circuit Court of Appeals. These intermediate appellate courts sit one level below the United States Supreme Court and are responsible for most of the federal decisions. There are multiple Courts of Appeals situated around the country so where you file your appeal depends on the United States District Court in which you were convicted.
Where to File Federal Appeals
In Florida, for example, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals based in Atlanta, Georgia, has jurisdiction to hear your appeal. In Pennsylvania, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, holds jurisdiction. Not every attorney is given the privilege of practicing before these intermediate appellate courts so when seeking out an appellate lawyer to pursue your appeal, make sure the lawyer is admitted in the Circuit and, most importantly, has pursued appeals in that Circuit before.
When to File Federal Appeals
In the federal court, you have 14 days from the date of your sentence to file your notice of appeal. This is a time-critical deadline because if you wait too long, you can lose important rights not only to direct review but also other post-conviction rights. An effective federal appellate lawyer will be versed in identifying the issues that are most likely to win relief on appeal. This might include a pre-trial decision by the trial judge to admit certain evidence or deny a motion to exclude an unqualified expert witness, or overruling an objection to improper comments by the Government.
Experienced Appellate Lawyers Are Necessary
Federal appeals are complicated and require an appellate lawyer who understands the nuances of federal law and procedure so he can “spot” issues the Court of Appeals will want to review and decide in your favor. Not ever error during a trial is appealable and knowing which are appealable and which are not makes all the difference. Equally important is having an appellate lawyer on your side who has practiced before the judges of the Circuit Court of Appeals before and understands how the judges review certain issues.
Not every federal appeal is the same precisely because every case is unique. Sure, the legal standards don’t change very often and some of the controlling federal case law remains consistent but it is the way the law applies to the unique facts of your case that makes the difference. Don’t wait to talk to a smart, creative appellate lawyer. This can make all the difference.