New York Criminal Appeals

Federal Criminal Appeals - A Brief Overview

In this article, New York Criminal Appeals Lawyer Tom Theophilos briefly outlines the process and procedure of federal criminal appeals.

Mr. Theophilos' Federal Criminal Appeals practice naturally takes him most frequently to New York Federal Appeals Courts. Mr. Theophilos, however, is available to handle Federal Appeals anywhere in the United States. Federal Criminal Appeals usually require only a single physical appearance in the appropriate Court for oral arguments.

Therefore, no matter where your Federal Criminal Appeals matter is, Mr. Theophilos can help.

If you have any questions or would like to speak with New York Criminal Appeals Attorney Tom Theophilos about a New York Federal Criminal Appeal or indeed any Federal Criminal Appeal, please call 866-447-7899.

Federal Criminal Appeals in New York - Process and Procedure

Federal Criminal Trials - District Courts

In the federal system, criminal trials are held in federal district courts. Each state is divided up into various districts.

In New York there are four federal district courts. They are the Western District, the Northern District, the Eastern District and the Southern District. Each district court covers a specific geographic area within the state of New York.

For example, the Southern District of New York handles criminal trials where the cases originate from the following counties:

Each federal district may have more than one courthouse located in different cities in that district. For example, the Southern District has courthouses located in Manhattan, White Plains, and Middletown.

Second Circuit Court of Appeals - The First Step in Federal Criminal Direct Appeals

The intermediate appellate courts in the federal system are referred to as the circuit courts. The entire nation is divided up into 11 circuit courts, the D.C. Circuit and the Federal Circuit.

Each of the 11 circuit courts cover certain states in the union. The D.C. circuit covers appeals from the District of Columbia and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals handles specialized types of appeals not relevant to any specific district court or state.

New York State is located within the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and anyone wishing to appeal a federal conviction located in any of the New York district courts would appeal to the Second Circuit.

The United States Supreme Court - The Highest Court

The highest court in the federal system is the United States Supreme Court and that is the final level of appeal available in the federal system.

If a person has lost an appeal in a federal circuit court, he does not have an automatic right to a further appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead if a defendant wishes to appeal to the Supreme Court, he must first submit a written request to that court asking for permission to appeal. That request is referred to as a petition for a writ of certiorari.

Only if that petition is granted may a defendant then file a formal appeal with the Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court receives many such petitions every year but only agrees to accept a handful of cases.

The Supreme Court generally does not accept cases for the sole purpose of correcting a mistake made by a Federal Circuit court. Instead it concentrates its effort on resolving splits in decisional law made by the various circuits. A split between two circuits will exist if one circuit interprets a provision of the Constitution or a federal statute one way and another circuit interprets that exact same statute or constitutional provision in a different way.

The US Supreme Court generally does not like it when splits in the circuits exist. The reason for this is that such splits cause defendants in different states to be treated and punished differently simply on the basis of where they happen to live. This results in an uneven administration of justice. The Supreme Court, however, strives to make the law apply evenly throughout the country.

Direct Appeals and Habeas Corpus Petitions in Federal Court

A direct appeal in a federal case is one that is taken immediately after being convicted at trial. The path of such an appeal is to proceed to the Circuit Court of Appeals and then to seek permission to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Direct appeals involve issues that are referred to as being on the record. A legal issue is on the record if it was raised and argued before the judge in the District Court at the initial trial.

Sometimes issues can come up which are not on the record. For example, after the trial is over, the defense lawyer may discover that the prosecutor withheld evidence that he was required to turn over to the defense before the trial began. This would obviously not be something that is on the record and therefore it could not be litigated through the process of a direct appeal.

In the federal system if a defendant wants to seek reversal of a conviction based on evidence that is not on the record he can file what is referred to as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Such a petition is filed in federal district court.

However if the habeas corpus petition is denied by the District Court, the defendant does not have an automatic right to appeal that decision to the circuit court. Instead he must first ask for permission to appeal to the circuit court and only if that permission is granted can he proceed with the actual appeal.

A petition for a writ of habeas corpus is referred to as a collateral proceeding as opposed to a direct appeal discussed above.

Therefore, one main difference between the appellate procedures for direct appeals as opposed to collateral proceedings is that all defendants have an automatic right to take one direct appeal to the circuit court whereas there is no such right with respect to the appeal of a collateral proceeding which is always by permission only.

Filing a Notice of Appeal after Criminal Conviction in Federal Court

Filing a notice of appeal is very easy in Federal Court compared to what is required in the New York criminal appeals process. There are only four district courts in New York state. All that is required is simply to go to the clerk of the court and file the notice of appeal. The clerk will provide a blank notice of appeal and the lawyer simply has to fill in the blanks and give it back to the clerk. The clerk will provide a stamped receipt which should be kept as proof that the notice of appeal was filed.

However, be aware that the time limit for filing a notice of appeal in federal cases is only 15 days from the date of sentence. There may be ways to extend that period of time, but don’t go down that road. Do not assume the responsibility for filing the notice of appeal yourself. Make sure the trial attorney does it .