If you have been convicted of a federal level crime, you have the right to file an appeal in an attempt to prove your innocence. However, the federal appeals process can be difficult to understand because federal appellate judges and their staff are mostly removed from criminal defendants and their attorneys. They work behind closed doors for the most part, except when they hold oral arguments, the frequency of which will vary according to each individual court.

A federal appeal is not a retrial

One of the most important things to understand about a federal criminal appeal is that it is not a retrial or a chance to have evidence heard over again. A trial and an appeal have virtually nothing in common. In a federal appeal, a legal proceeding is challenged on some sort of legal ground. This challenge almost always takes place in writing, which is known as filing a brief that details the perceived errors made by the lower court.

Federal appeals take a long time

Because courts are crowded and each legal appeal must be considered individually, appeals can take months or well over a year or more. Judges must read, research and consider each argument along with their staff, but complex issues can be in play, requiring time-consuming efforts to make sure the process is fair and thorough.

Most appeals are resolved “on the briefs”

Briefs are the written arguments submitted by each side in a federal appeal. Three out of every four cases are resolved “on the briefs” meaning that a very small amount of cases are ever heard with oral arguments. This makes the filing of the brief and the response to the brief the central and most critical part of the appeal.

There are other options if you lose an appeal

If you do not get the outcome you desire from an appeal, you have other options you can pursue. These can include filing a petition for a rehearing or filing a petition to have the full court (rather than three judges) hear your case, among others.

The Law Office of Ginger Kelley serves clients in Newport Beach, Santa Ana and communities throughout Orange County, California.