Contrary to popular perception, a federal criminal appeal is not a second trial. On appeal you cannot retry the evidence from trial, put on new witnesses, or submit new documents to the court. An appeal does not decide whether you are guilty or innocent – it decides whether there were legal errors in your case that led to you receiving an unfair trial.
A federal criminal appeal takes place almost entirely on paper in written submissions to a panel of three judges from the federal appeals court – you, as the defendant, file an appeals brief (sometimes also called an “appellate brief”) arguing what legal errors were made at trial. The Government then files a brief in response arguing why your conviction should remain in place. Some, but not all, federal appeals are granted an oral argument hearing before the federal appeals court.
Because the federal appeals process is so much different than a trial, it requires a lawyer with a much different skill set than a regular trial attorney. You want an appeals lawyer who is highly skilled in the research and writing that the federal appeals process requires. That’s because the issues on appeal are often complex and require high-level legal thinking, writing, and analysis.
My practice specializes in federal criminal appeals. Though no outcome is ever guaranteed, I’ve had success getting my clients relief on appeal and post-trial.