Overview of the Federal Criminal Appeals Process
This process is essential in ensuring that the criminal justice system is fair and that mistakes or legal errors can be corrected.
Notice of appeal
The first step is for the defendant (now appellant) to file a notice of appeal.
This must be done within a specific time frame, usually 14 days from the date the judgment or order being appealed is entered on the docket. The notice of appeal is filed with the district court where the case was heard.
Record on appeal
After the notice of appeal is filed, the district court clerk will prepare the record on appeal.
This includes the trial transcripts, court documents, exhibits, and any other relevant materials that the appellate court will need to review the case.
Both the appellant and the appellee the US Attorneys Office (usually the government) are required to submit written briefs to the appellate court.
The appellant’s brief will outline the legal errors they believe occurred during the trial and argue why the conviction or sentence should be reversed or modified.
The appellee’s brief will respond to the appellant’s arguments and defend the trial court’s decision.
In some cases, the appellate court may schedule oral arguments.
During oral arguments, the attorneys for both parties present their cases before a panel of judges and answer any questions the judges may have.
Oral arguments typically last around 15-30 minutes per side.
After reviewing the record on appeal, the briefs, and considering the oral arguments (if any), the appellate court will issue a written opinion.
The court may affirm the conviction or sentence, reverse or modify it, or remand the case to the lower court for further proceedings.
US Supreme Court Writs
If the appellant is dissatisfied with the appellate court’s decision, they may petition the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.
The Supreme Court has discretion to decide whether or not to hear the case.
If the Court grants certiorari, the case proceeds through another round of briefing, oral arguments, and a final decision.
Additionally, the appellate process can be lengthy, sometimes taking a year or more to reach a decision.