A federal criminal conviction in the federal courts of Pennsylvania is a daunting judgment. The life and freedom of the convicted will change drastically. A person convicted of a federal criminal act will face challenges unknown to them prior to conviction and lose even the most basic sense of rights. From voting, to owning a firearm, to managing one’s own schedule, a convicted person’s daily routine is turned on its head. While many people understand the gravity of a criminal conviction, not everyone is familiar with the fact that a conviction is not the end of the road. In fact, a conviction does not even mean that the criminal case has reached a conclusion. The Pennsylvania federal appellate court system exists as a safety net to ensure that convictions are handed down accurately and that justice is pursued in the best way possible. Trial courts make mistakes. Attorneys, judges, and jurors can make mistakes. Thus, the appeals process is one of the most important aspects of securing a fair and full opportunity to be heard. If you or someone you love has been convicted of a crime, here are some important aspects of the appeals process you should be familiar with:
In Pennsylvania a federal criminal case is typically first examined in the U.S. District Courts. This means that the first level of appellate review will happen in the Federal Appellate Court. If there is a dispute over the law applied during the criminal trial a convicted party will want to hire an appellate attorney and file for appeal as soon as possible. As with most legal matters, strict deadlines apply when seeking post-judgment relief and missing a deadline will result in an appeal getting thrown out even where cause exists.
Legally there is no law that exists that requires a convicted person to hire a new attorney at the appellate level. As a practical matter, however, there are several reasons why one would want to. First, the trial process is an entirely different animal than the appellate process. Trial attorneys are very different than appellate attorneys. The focus of an appeal is on the application of the law whereas the focus of a trial is centered around the introduction of evidence, jury instructions, presentation, and witnesses. Where a trial attorney’s focus is split an appellate attorney’s focus is amplified. An appellate attorney can ensure that the legal arguments suit the appellate process.
The shortest and most simple answer is that appeals are based on legal errors at the trial level that result in unfair or unjust outcomes. A convicted person would appeal where the law was applied incorrectly to allow the jury to consider illegal evidence, to unfairly prejudice the defendant, or bias the defendant in an illegal manner. A convicted party may also appeal the length and severity of their sentence or appeal on the basis that their trial attorney was ineffective. An federal appeal not only protects those directly affected by the verdict, but also helps correct imbalances in the trial system. Appeals form the basis for future trials and future defendants.
If you have questions about how to file a criminal appeal contact the legal professionals at Brownstone Law today.
Speak with an appellate lawyer.