It’s happened: you’ve been convicted of a federal crime. On TV, the lawyer confidently turns to the client and says: “Don’t worry. We’ll fix it on appeal.”
In reality, the post-conviction options are a lot more complex, and appeals don’t always get you where you want to go.
What is an appeal?
An appeal is not a second trial or a re-trial. An appeal goes to a higher court when an attorney successfully calls a legal issue of the trial into question. The appeals court does not receive new evidence or hear from witnesses in most cases.
Instead, they get the case transcripts and the attorney’s arguments and they look to see if a specific legal issue was handled correctly.
For example, perhaps the lower court judge allowed evidence into the court room that should have more properly been excluded. Your attorney can call the propriety of that evidence into question.
Sometimes the appeals court will overturn the conviction, which means you would in fact have your conviction vacated. It’s more common for them to either uphold it, or send their assessment of the issue back to the lower court for review. Sometimes they will order a new trial. It’s not an easy get-out-of jail free card.
You have just 14 days to file an appeal after your conviction. You cannot make an appeal years and years later.
If an appeal isn’t possible, are there other options?
Yes. In some cases you may be able to make a Rule 2255 motion which claims that your sentence violates the Constitution. Your attorney may use the “ineffective assistance of counsel” defense on a Rule 2255 motion. This means that your attorney made some extremely grave mistake during the trial process, to the point where you did not actually receive a fair trial.
You have one year to file a Rule 2255 motion.
If there is new evidence in your case your attorney may be able to file for a new trial based on Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure #33 within 3 years of your conviction.
Your attorney can also file a clemency petition on your behalf to seek a pardon from the president.
Finally, your attorney may seek a sentence reduction or modification, perhaps based on cooperation that you provide to the government as they pursue other cases. Speak to your attorney to go over your options.
Are you in trouble?
It’s even harder to get post-conviction relief than it is to win a federal case. You need an experienced federal criminal attorney to help you. If you’re in trouble, don’t delay. Reach out to Koch Law for a consultation today.