10 Things You Should Know About Federal Criminal Appeals, Part 2 of 2

Federal appellate courts are a mystery to many defendants and even some criminal defense attorneys because the judges and their staff largely work in secret, with oral arguments being the only time these courts are open for public scrutiny.

Here are the second five of 10 things you should know about the inner workings of the federal criminal appeals court:

  1. Procedural details are important. Appellate courts are formal institutions, and each court has strict technical requirements that are rigorously enforced. Even minor errors like having the wrong color cover on a brief can delay the proceedings; ignoring the rules is a serious infraction. Experienced appellate attorneys know the importance of demonstrating respect for court rules and the advantages this respect can provide for their clients.
  2. Appeals are generally expensive. The more complex the case, the higher the cost of litigation in an appellate court. Thankfully, some courts have embraced the filing of electronic briefs and other pleadings and more are sure to follow, which helps reduce expense and speeds the process. There are certain costs that are predictable, including the filing fee — $455 in all federal criminal appeals courts — as well as transcript costs that can also be fairly accurately estimated.
  3. Preservation of error for appeal is key. Great trial attorneys know the importance of the preservation of error for appeal. The concept is fairly simple: a district court must have a fair opportunity to correct an error at the time it happens before an appellate court will consider correcting that error. So if a trial attorney does not object to an error in a timely manner plusstate the legal basis for that objection, he or she has failed to preserve the error for an appeals court to consider.
  4. It is important to understand all the possible outcomes of an appeal. Many appellants mistakenly believe that if they win the appeal, the case is over and their conviction is overturned. This can happen, but it is very rare. Usually, appeals deal with trial errors — i.e., procedural violations, erroneous jury instructions, etc. — and if an appellant prevails, he or she is generally left to face the same charges again in the same court. This is an important point to consider when weighing whether or not to file an appeal.
  5. Losing an appeal doesn’t necessarily mean all is lost. Depending on the type of case being litigated, losing a direct appeal doesn’t necessarily mean that all is lost. There are a number of post-conviction proceedings that can occur even after a direct appeal has been decided, including petitioning for a rehearing, a request to reconsider the decision and a request for an en banc hearing where the full court rather than a panel of three judges hears the case.

The Cogdell Law Firm is a full service criminal litigation and appellate law firm. We provide client-focused representation at all stages of the process, whether our clients are seeking to avoid charges, have been charged, or are seeking reversal of a conviction on appeal. When results matter most, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or dan@cogdell-law.com.

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