Federal Appeals Attorney
in West Palm Beach
David Joffe has decades of experience
appealing federal cases
U.S. law grants all people convicted of a crime the right to appeal the action. An appeal is not a new trial. It is a second look at what happened by a U.S. appeals court, also known as an appellate court. An appeal brings to the attention of the appellate judges legal errors that influenced the outcome of the trial. If the appeals court agrees with the appeal in whole or in part, it will order the lower court to resolve the errors, which could potentially overturn a conviction or reduce a sentence. Appealing a federal criminal conviction is a highly technical process best managed by a federal appeals lawyer.
When can a conviction or sentence be appealed?
An individual in West Palm Beach, Florida convicted of a federal crime can prepare an appeal if one or more legal errors can be identified. Specifically, a federal attorney must find a prejudicial error that could have arguably led to a wrongful conviction. Mistakes that could not have arguably affected the verdict will not suffice for an appeal to go forward due to being considered harmless errors.
Prejudicial errors that could serve as grounds for an appeal include:
- improper admission or exclusion of evidence
- incorrect or incomplete jury instructions
- inadequate or ineffective legal counsel
- insufficient evidence to support guilty verdict
- juror misconduct
- improper communication between jurors and witnesses or counsel
- prosecution errors
- unacceptable bias in jury selection
- judicial errors in pretrial or trial rulings
Let attorney David Joffe review your case.
Federal criminal appeal process
Recent years have seen an uptick in federal appeals of criminal convictions. According to a report from the U.S. court system, criminal appeals jumped 8% as of the year ending March 2020. Of the 10,425 appeals filed that year, 76% of the cases arose from four crime categories:
- drug offenses
- firearms and explosives
- property offenses, including fraud
Step 1. Notice of Appeal
Each one of these appeals started with filing a Notice of Appeal. This document alerts the applicable appellate court of the person’s intent to appeal some aspect of the verdict or sentence. The record of all proceedings related to the case from the lower court will then be forwarded to the appellate court. These materials supply the information that the appeals court will refer to as it considers the legal errors explained in the brief.
Step 2. Briefs
The appeals attorney representing the convicted person files a written brief with the court that outlines the prejudicial errors that impacted the case. The document cites the court records and presents arguments explaining how the errors were serious enough to warrant a new look at the case.
The prosecutor of the original case also gets to file a brief explaining why the original verdict or sentence should stand.
A convincingly written brief is essential for swaying the minds of the appellate judges. These judges frequently decide appeals solely on the content of the briefs and the trial records.
Step 3. Oral Arguments
An appeal includes the possibility of the lawyers for both sides presenting oral arguments to the panel of judges. During oral arguments, the lawyers explain their positions and answer questions posed to them by the judges. Oral arguments, however, are not always used but will likely take place when an appeal seeks to overturn a federal criminal conviction.
Step 4. Opinion
Sometime between 30 days and six months after oral arguments, the appellate court issues its decision, or Opinion, about the appeal. One of the judges will write the decision, which explains why the court found for or against the appeal.
Possible outcomes of an appeal
The appeals court could come to any number of conclusions. The Opinion could reject the appeal or order the lower court to take additional action.
- affirmation: No prejudicial errors were found to exist, and the appeals court agrees with the decisions of the lower court.
- correction or modification of lower court’s judgment: This could represent a partial victory for the person appealing a conviction. The appeals court found that one or more errors took place but not to an extent to reverse the verdict entirely. The court will issue an order telling the lower court what it needs to fix about the original outcome. It may have to reconsider the facts or hear new evidence.
- new trial: At times, an appeal results in an appellate court ordering a new trial. The judges determined that the original trial was so error ridden that the only fair thing to do is retry the entire case from the beginning. This represents a second chance although it is not a guarantee that the second trial will not result in conviction.
- reversal: This is the grand prize in the appeals process because it means that the appeals court has chosen to throw out the original verdict.
- new sentencing hearing: Some appeals contest the sentence rather than the validity of the conviction. An unreasonably harsh sentence might prompt such an appeal. If the appeals court agrees, it could order a new sentencing but not a new trial.
A Florida news example of an appeal potentially reducing a sentence is found in the appeal of a U.S. Congresswoman’s fraud conviction. In 2021, an appeals court ordered a new trial for the 18 criminal charges that she was convicted of in 2017. The 75-year-old woman had already served part of her sentence in a minimum security facility. While preparing for the new trial, she and her legal team decided to enter a plea deal with the hope that the new sentence will not include any more prison time.
A second chance with a federal appeals lawyer
A federal criminal appeal is a specialized process that requires the attention of an attorney experienced with the federal court system. A skillful analysis of court records must be done to see if a prejudicial error derailed the justice system in your case. Joffe Law, P.A. has fought for the rights of criminal defendants for over 30 years. Our ability to handle appeals and post-conviction issues is available to people in West Palm Beach. To explore your options for appeal after a wrongful conviction, contact our office right away.