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Federal Appeals Attorney in Florida

Florida Federal Appeals Lawyer

Count on our experience for defense against tough federal charges

The appeals process begins after conviction. Once convicted, a defendant may file an appeal to have an appellate court reexamine certain aspects of the defendant’s case. Choosing the right appellate attorney is critical. Attorneys must follow a very specific set of guidelines to identify a qualifying issue and file an appeal accordingly. Joffe Law has the track record and expertise you need on your side when you are looking for a second chance at justice. We provide appellate court representation to people who have been convicted of a crime based on a trial error.

Understanding the appeals court system

When a case goes to trial, the prosecution has the burden of introducing sufficient evidence and presenting a case that establishes the defendant’s culpability beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense attorney takes on the responsibility of presenting a case that, at minimum, raises a reasonable doubt regarding whether the defendant is guilty as charged. If a criminal trial results in a conviction, the defendant has options. He or she may appeal certain aspects of the trial court’s decision.

Appealing a court decision

Whether in civil or criminal court, a defendant may appeal the trial court’s decision. In criminal court, defendants may appeal a judge’s decision on an individual matter within the case, or the defense may appeal the verdict itself. The law does not permit defendants to appeal solely because they disagree with the trial court’s decision. Common permissible reasons for filing an appeal include:

  • legal errors
  • problems with evidence presented
  • ineffective assistance of counsel
  • violation of constitutional rights
  • jury misconduct
  • new evidence is available
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Appealing sentencing

Defendants can appeal sentencing if they believe the court-ordered penalty violates the law, infringes on the defendant’s constitutional rights, or is unreasonably excessive in comparison to the offense. Signs that suggest a defendant may have grounds for appealing a sentence include:

  • departure from federal sentencing guidelines
  • sentencing appears to be vindictive
  • sentence is disproportionate to the crime

Appellate courts vs. trial courts

Trial courts do the comprehensive work of hearing each side of a case as presented by the prosecution and the defense. The court goes about the business of fact-finding and ultimately returns a conviction or an acquittal. Prior to and throughout the course of a trial, the judge responds to requests by prosecutors and defense attorneys, decides which evidence is admissible, and makes rulings on a variety of legal issues that arise throughout the process.

Because trial courts are viewed as being most capable of finding facts, appellate courts limit their review to the actions of the trial court to determine whether the court made legal or procedural errors. Therefore, the appeals does not retry the case or hear new evidence to determine the case outcome. However, the appellate court may remand the case back to the trial court to allow new evidence to be introduced.

There are vast differences between attorneys. Defendants who want to file an appeal should always choose an attorney who is specifically experienced in navigating the federal appeals process. The best appeals attorneys thoroughly understand the technicalities of federal civil procedure and constitutional law. The federal appeals process is often a very narrow pathway to having your case revisited. We are the legal experts you need on your side when filing an appeal.

Appellate courts in the U.S.

Lawyers often refer to an appellate case as going “up” on appeal. The federal and court systems consist of pathways that allow cases to travel from trial courts “upward” to higher and higher appellate courts depending on the path the case takes. Federal cases always remain within the federal appeals system each time a new court reviews the case. However, state court cases can enter the federal court system if the case travels further along the path for continued review. The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest-ranking appellate court in the federal court system. Most state court systems mirror the federal system with each state having its own state supreme court. In some instances, states use slightly different titles to describe their appellate courts; however, the structure remains similar to the federal court system.

Appealing a state case to a federal appellate court

Generally, defendants in state cases can only appeal to state appellate courts. However, there are two instances in which a defendant in a state criminal court case can appeal to a federal appellate court. The first grounds for a state court case to be reviewed in the federal appellate court system arises in civil cases in which there is a federal question that must be answered. The second instance applies to state criminal cases. If a state criminal court case reaches the state supreme court, the defendant may request a writ of certiorari to have the case reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Federal appellate courts

People who are charged with a federal crime have their trials in designated federal district courts. Currently, there are 94 federal district courts in the U.S. with each state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico having at least one. Some states have as many as four district courts.
Because district court judges hear the substantive facts of a case, district courts are classified as trial courts.

If a federal district court convicts a defendant, the defendant may appeal to a federal circuit court of appeals. There are currently 13 federal circuit courts in the U.S. In order to appeal to the circuit court, the defense must identify legal errors the district court made. The federal circuit may do one of the following:

  • affirm the trial court’s decision if the appellate judges agree with the previous findings
  • remand the the case by sending it back to the trial court to be reviewed again to correct an error
  • reverse the trial court’s previous decision

Defendants typically want their appeal to result in a reversal. However, even if the circuit court affirms the trial court’s decision, the defense can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Before a case can be heard by the Supreme Court, the defense must be granted a writ of certiorari. The Supreme Court decides to hear only a fraction of the cases it receives on appeal each year. Attorneys who obtain writs of certiorari generally have impeccable writing skills and are highly familiar with the federal appeals process.

How the federal appeals process works

After a guilty verdict, the defendant may file an appeal. If the defendant wants to appeal the conviction or sentence, the defendant’s attorney will file a notice of appeal with the federal circuit court. The appellate court will order a briefing schedule, and the defense attorney will write and file a legal brief on the defendant’s behalf.

During the appeals process, the party that files the appeal is referred to as the “appellant.” Therefore, in a criminal case, a defendant who files an appeal becomes the appellant. The Constitution prohibits state and federal prosecutors from appealing criminal court acquittals. However, there are other matters prosecutors can appeal. For example, the prosecution may appeal sentencing if the prosecutor wants to argue the sentence is too lenient.

After the defense attorney files the appellate brief, the appellate court will review the brief and possibly hold oral arguments. The defense attorney’s writing and legal research skills are critically important because in many instances, circuit courts decide cases based on the attorney’s brief.

In cases in which the appellate court holds oral arguments, the format is drastically different from trial court proceedings. The appellate court asks the attorneys from the defense and prosecution to appear before a panel of three judges. During the proceedings, the judges ask the attorney questions in a Q&A format. Oral arguments are generally very brief in comparison to original trials. After the appellate court returns a decision, either party may request a writ of certiorari to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Common errors made by federal trial courts

Successful appeals are based on material errors. Therefore, defense attorneys must demonstrate that the error made by the trial court was important enough to play a role in the outcome of the case. The following are examples of common material errors criminal trial courts make.

Procedural errors

Courts are required to follow detailed procedural guidelines when handling a case. Within the context of criminal cases, a criminal court’s failure to follow the correct procedure may directly affect the fairness of the outcome of the case. Examples of procedural errors include:

  • mishandling evidence
  • giving the wrong instructions to the jury
  • failing to provide proper notice to the involved parties
  • violating the defendant’s constitutional rights

The average person is not well-versed in the legal nuances of federal criminal procedure. Therefore, defendants need an attorney’s keen eye to determine whether a case is eligible for appeal based on a procedural error.

Legal errors

In some instances, a trial court judge may misinterpret the law or incorrectly apply the law to the facts of a case. Legal errors are most often the subject of appeals because they directly challenge the trial court’s verdict by claiming the lower court’s legal analysis doesn’t apply to the defendant. When an appellate court finds that the trial court made an error of law, the outcome is generally to overturn the trial court’s decision. In these cases, the defendant may be absolved of the charges, or the appellate court may order a new trial.

Factual errors

A factual error occurs when a trial court judge or the jury makes a mistake regarding a fact that occurred in the case. Examples of factual errors include misinterpreting a witness statement, confusing the names of people who are involved in the case, or assuming a witness may not be credible based on his or her physical appearance. Errors of fact are more difficult to argue because appellate courts generally defer to the trial court’s fact-finding. Therefore, a defense attorney must present a compelling argument to show the trial court made a glaring error that significantly impacted the case.

Appeals based on misconduct

Prosecutors are required to observe certain rules of conduct. Unfortunately, a defendant’s case may be negatively affected if a prosecutor behaves unethically to obtain a conviction. For example, a prosecutor may not try to convince the jury that the prosecution has special knowledge of whether or not a witness is telling the truth. The prosecutor must allow the members of the jury to determine for themselves what they believe. Prosecutors are also prohibited from refusing to turn over evidence that suggests the defendant is not guilty. If an appeals court finds prosecutorial misconduct took place, the likely result is for the trial court verdict to be overturned.

Specialized legal representation when you need it

David Joffe is specifically qualified to provide legal representation to defendants who want to appeal a federal conviction. We understand the necessity of putting your best foot forward when your case goes before a panel of distinguished federal appellate court judges. We’ll carefully examine the previous findings in your case so we can construct the most compelling argument on appeal.

Contact Joffe Law, P.A. today to speak with a Florida federal criminal attorney and learn more about your legal options. Our team will bring the legal resources, attentiveness, and professionalism your case deserves.

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Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.