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Coral Gables Federal Appeals Attorney

Our defense firm handles post-conviction relief cases

After a federal trial court delivers a conviction, the story does not end for the defendant. The federal appeals process gives convicted defendants an opportunity to have their case reviewed for errors. The appeals process does not automatically grant the defendant a new trial. However, winning an appeal can substantially improve the outcome for defendants who have been wrongfully convicted or harshly sentenced. Joffe Law, P.A. represents convicted defendants who are interested in seeking justice through the appeals process. Our Coral Gables federal appeal attorneys‘ extensive experience and thorough familiarity with federal appellate courts will provide the competitive edge you need to present a strong case on appeal.

Federal appeals courts

Coral Gables federal appeals cases are heard at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. There are two tiers to the federal appellate court system. After a federal trial convicts a defendant, the defendant may appeal to a federal appellate court. Federal appellate courts are divided into 13 regional circuits. Florida, Georgia, and Alabama comprise the 11th Circuit. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is located in Atlanta. Although circuit courts only have one location per region, the distance typically does not pose much of a challenge. Unlike trial courts, federal appellate courts do not require the defendant to make an appearance in the courtroom. In fact, most cases are decided without the attorneys appearing before the court.

The second tier of the federal appeals court system is the U.S. Supreme Court. Defendants who do not win their case at the circuit court level may file a writ to have their case reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

How cases get to the Supreme Court

There are two paths cases can follow to potentially reach the Supreme Court. Federal cases may work their way to the Supreme Court if the defendant or appellant loses on appeal at the circuit court level. In some instances, state cases may reach the federal Supreme Court if the case has traveled through the system and the top-ranking state appellate court decided against the defendant. If a party wants to have its case appear before the Supreme Court, the attorney is required to file a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court grants certiorari or “cert” to a relatively small percentage of cases in which an attorney has petitioned for certiorari.

Filing a federal appeal in Coral Gables

When a federal court defendant wants to file an appeal, the first step is for the defendant’s attorney to file a Notice of Appeal. For defendants who want to file an appeal, the Notice of Appeal is generally due within 14 days of the date of conviction. Filing after the 14-day period may result in the defendant’s appeal automatically being denied. Although the defendant may notice glaring errors prior to the conviction, appeals are only allowed after conviction.

When the appellate court receives the Notice of Appeal, it will create a schedule to allow the attorneys from both sides to know when to file their appellate briefs. The defendant, also known as the appellant, is responsible for obtaining the transcriptions from the trial court proceedings and assembling the record. Both the defense and the prosecution ultimately work together to determine what should be in the record the appellant court will ultimately review for errors.

Appellate review process

Appellate courts differ significantly from trial courts. When both sides submit their appellate briefs, a panel of three judges will preside over the case. The appellate panel reviews the briefs and the trial court record. If the court decides it needs to ask questions of the attorneys, the court will schedule oral arguments.

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During appellate oral arguments, each attorney receives an allotment of approximately 15 minutes to present their respective arguments. During each attorney’s oral argument, the appellate panel will typically interrupt the attorney’s presentation to ask questions Q&A style. Your federal appeals lawyer should be able to think quickly and remain undaunted in presenting your case before a panel of federal judges.

Possible outcomes of a federal appeal

Appellate courts do not determine whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty. Instead, they review the trial court for material errors that negatively affected the defendant.

Appellate courts use specific terminology to indicate its decision on the appeal. If the appellate court upholds the trial court’s decision, the appellate court will “affirm” the previous court’s decision. If the appellate court overturns the trial court’s decision, the appellate court will be to “reverse” the previous decision. When the appellate court wants to send the case back to the trial court, it will “remand” the matter and give additional instructions to the trial court.

In addition to issuing a decision, appellate judges will also often write an opinion to explain how they arrived at their decision. Judicial opinions are important because attorneys in future cases may use the judges’ legal analysis to support their arguments.

A reversed decision may result in an overturned conviction, a modified sentence, or a new trial for the defendant. Appellate courts generally do not reverse the previous court’s decision without first scheduling oral arguments. However, the court’s decision to hear oral arguments does not automatically indicate that the court will reverse the trial court’s prior ruling.

Grounds for filing a federal appeal

Only a small percentage of federal criminal appeals are winning cases for the defendant. First, appellate courts are strictly limited to reviewing a case for legal errors based on the trial court transcript. Attorneys are not permitted to call witnesses or present new substantive arguments when a case goes before an appellate court.

In addition to the narrow lane within when an appellate court may review a case, the process itself can be very intimidating for attorneys. Most appeals are decided based on the winning attorney’s legal brief. Therefore, a federal appellate attorney should have impeccable writing skills. Typically, when an appellate court reverses the previous trial court’s decision on a case, the court will request oral arguments from the attorneys. Not only should your federal appeals lawyer be an excellent writer, but he or she should also be a strong persuasive speaker. Your attorney should be ready and able to communicate effectively within the very short amount of time attorneys are granted to speak in the event that an appellate court calls them to appear before the court.

If you want to appeal your case, you can substantially improve the odds of winning by choosing an attorney who knows the process and has won federal criminal appeals in the past. If Joffe Law represents you in your Coral Gables federal criminal case, David Joffe will identify the strongest arguments to form the basis of your federal appeal. Our team will represent you with professionalism at every stage in the federal appeals process. We’ve listed below some of the most common issues Coral Gables criminal defense attorneys appeal after a federal conviction:

  • erroneous jury instructions
  • wrongful conviction
  • excessive sentencing
  • procedural violations
  • problems with evidence

Appeals based on wrong jury instructions

In federal criminal proceedings, the judge gives the jury the instructions they need to apply the law and decide on a verdict. The instructions a jury receives directly impact the outcome of the case. Therefore, if a jury receives erroneous instructions, the defendant may be wrongfully convicted. Even in cases in which the instructions are correct, the jury may have difficulty applying the law because the instructions are overly complex. Examples of common problems that arise with jury instructions are:

  • ambiguous language
  • incorrect statements of law
  • biased instructions
  • misinterpretation of evidence
  • omission of key instructions

Your attorney will know if there are potential problems with the jury instructions. If your Coral Gables federal defense lawyer can prove the erroneous instructions played a material role in the trial court’s decision, an appellate court may rule in your favor on appeal.

Appealing a federal sentence

People who have been convicted on a criminal charge have the right to be sentenced in a manner that is reasonable and in proportion with the severity of the crime. If a sentencing court issues a punishment that is excessive or inappropriate, the defendant may appeal the sentence based on a violation of the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits courts from imposing “cruel and unusual” punishment. Some cases in which defense attorneys are more likely to appeal sentencing include:

  • criminal cases that involve a defendant who is under 18
  • capital punishment cases
  • sentences that call for excessive fines
  • cases that involve a defendant who has been declared legally insane

In determining whether a court imposed an excessive sentence, the appellate court will evaluate current societal views on the crime. The court will also review the defendant’s criminal history and the severity of the offense. When choosing a Coral Gables defense attorney to appeal a sentence, the defendant should choose an attorney who is well-versed in current trends in related case law.

PROCEDURAL VIOLATIONS

The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure govern the federal criminal process. Law enforcement agencies, courts, and attorneys must carefully follow these rules or otherwise risk damaging their case. If the federal government or the U.S. Attorney failed to properly follow the rules of criminal procedure, the error may give an appellate court grounds for overturning a resulting conviction. Your Coral Gables federal appeals defense lawyer should be thoroughly familiar with federal criminal procedure and challenge the prosecution’s case at the first sign of an error.

EVIDENTARY PROBLEMS

Law enforcement agencies must follow very specific rules when gathering evidence, and prosecutors are required to follow rules when introducing evidence. Before searching a property, law enforcement officers are required to obtain a search warrant, receive permission from someone who controls the property,  or observe evidence of a crime in plain view. Evidence obtained through an illegal search may be challenged at trial by the defense. If the court erroneously allows illegal evidence into the trial record, the defense may later challenge the trial court’s decision to admit the evidence in an appeal. Other forms of evidence trial courts are not permitted to admit are:

  • hearsay
  • evidence that is irrelevant to the criminal charge
  • evidence that violates the defendant’s constitutional rights

Coral Gables federal appeals defense lawyers are familiar with the Rules of Evidence. Contact our federal defense lawyers in Coral Gables to have your case reviewed for evidentiary problems that may be grounds for a federal appeal.

Contact a Coral Gables lawyer for your federal appeal

Appeals are just one option defendants have if they have been convicted. David Joffe will thoroughly review your case and advise you of your legal options. When you work with Joffe Law, we will help you make better, more informed decisions. Contact our dedicated team to learn more about the federal appeals process or to schedule a case consultation.


Frequently Asked Questions
about Federal Appeals

I’m not satisfied with my trial attorney. Can I work with a different attorney to file an appeal?

Yes, if you are unsatisfied with the legal representation you previously received, you may retain a new lawyer. Contact us to learn more about how we represent federal criminal court defendants post conviction.

Do you also represent defendants during the trial stage?

Yes, we represent defendants during the investigative stage, pre-trial, during trial, and post conviction. We are available to provide legal representation at every stage in the federal criminal process.

Will I need to go before a judge to file an appeal?

No, the federal court process does not require convicted defendants to appear before a judge if they want to file an appeal. Your attorney will argue your case by submitting an appellate brief. Choose an attorney who has excellent writing skills and a proven track record in winning federal criminal appeals.

Why are so few appeals result in a reversal?

Circuit courts receive a tremendous volume of appeals. Moreover, a successful appeal will generally establish the case for reversal by proving a material legal error. Your appeal is more likely to be compelling if you have the support and legal expertise a seasoned Coral Gables federal appeals lawyer can offer.


Related: Federal cases that can be appealed

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