Criminal Appeals

Can I Appeal A Federal Criminal Conviction?

Being convicted for a crime is generally, but not always, something you can appeal. In the federal system, everyone convicted at trial or by a guilty plea is entitled to a direct appeal to contest the conviction or sentence.

An appeal is not a retrial. Appeals are very different from trials, with different rules and procedures. If you have questions or need help, request a consultation with federal defense attorney Patrick Roberts (read more about Patrick Roberts). Call 800-760-9071 or send an email. Patrick Roberts and the Roberts Law Group, PLLC is based in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Legal Error, Not Guilt or Innocence

Whether you were guilty or innocent of the federal charges is not the issue. Instead, the court will determine whether legal errors contributed to your conviction. If so, the judge will decide whether a new trial is warranted. In some but not all cases, winning on appeal may end with an order from the appellate court to dismiss the charges against you.

How Much Time Do I Have To File An Appeal?

There are important deadlines that must be met in order to preserve your right to appeal. You should seek the advice of an experienced defense lawyer in determining what specific time frame applies to your case.

Expert Tip: A criminal defendant's notice of appeal must be filed in the district court within 14 days after the later of: (i) entry of the judgment/order being appealed, or (ii) the filing of the Government's order of appeal (assuming the Government has appealed). See Fed. R. App. P. 4(b)(1). The district court may extend the time for filing a notice of appeal up to 30 days upon a finding of excusable neglect or good cause. See Fed. R. App. P. 4(b)(4).

Do not take chances and miss the deadline. It can mean losing your chance to appeal.

What Are The Steps Involved In Filing An Appeal?

In general, the basic steps are:

  1. Request a trial transcript, which becomes the record on appeal and is the basis for arguing that reversible legal errors were made during trial. (If there is new evidence in your case, other options for post-conviction relief may be more appropriate than a direct appeal.)
  2. Prepare a brief explaining to the court what errors were made, making reference to the record, and why those errors are reversible or prejudicial error.
  3. The judge renders his or her decision after oral argument or based on the briefs alone.

Winning Or Losing An Appeal

A majority of judges considering your appeal – rather than all of them – must agree on the outcome in order to reach a decision. You win your appeal if they agree with your argument; your case may be dismissed entirely or sent back to the trial court. You lose your appeal if they agree with the prosecutor or if the judges find that the errors you asserted were not prejudicial and did not affect the outcome of your case.

If you did not win on appeal, you may (or may not) have the right to file another appeal, this time to the U.S. Supreme Court.

North Carolina vs. M.W.
Charge: Charge: Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon (4 Counts), First Degree Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon
Facing: 12 - 17 years in prison
Result: Dismissed

An incarcerated defendant accused our client of participating in the robbery of a group of youth at a party. We were able to raise doubt as to the credibility of this individual. In the end, the prosecutor dismissed these charges, citing a lack of evidence.