This is a question our office gets all the time, and it would be great if we could give a clear-cut answer; however, the short and sweet truth of the federal criminal appeals process is that it takes as long as it takes. Sometimes it can take 9 months, and sometimes it can take a year and a half or more. We recognize that when we’re talking about the life and liberty of you or your loved one, that’s hardly a sufficient answer, so we want to break it down so that the federal criminal appeals process is clear. Believe us, we’d love it if the process was predictable; however, our best experience tells us that – in most cases – the average federal criminal appeal process takes about a year.
Why Does it Take so Long for the Appellate Court to Render Their Decision in the Federal Criminal Appeals Process?
Well, there are many reasons, which include the sheer volume of court cases they receive each year and the amount of paperwork involved with each case. In addition, every circuit court has its own set of local rules governing its operating procedures. Add to that the fact that some cases are particularly complex, and you can begin to see why patience is a virtue in the federal criminal appeals process.
An Overview of the Federal Criminal Appeals Process
- Notice of appeal – this notice should be filed within 14 days after either the entry of the judgement or the order being appealed, or the filing of the government’s notice of appeal.
- Briefing schedule issued from the court – the court sets a deadline for opening brief, appellee’s brief and reply brief.
- Written briefs – In this document, the lawyers lay out what happened in the trial court that was in error, and why the court should amend their decision. The name ‘brief’ is a bit misleading, as this document is typically very lengthy and will contain many citations to things that happened in your case as well as references to case law. The purpose of this document is to convince the court that what happened to you was wrong or illegal and must be addressed.
- Response from the opposing side – each side will have an opportunity to respond to the arguments raised in the opposing side’s opening brief. This process can take several weeks.
- Oral Arguments (only in a few occasions)
- Review, deliberation and decision – At this point, the appeal goes to a panel of three (3) federal circuit judges who are appointed for life by the President. They look at both sides of the case, reviewing the briefs, the transcripts of the trial and the evidence. At this point, they may (or may not) order a hearing for oral arguments. If they do, both sides come together to argue their case in person. At this point, they make a decision. This part of the process can take 3 – 6 months to make it to the judges’ desks.
- Options for the losing side – after the court makes their decision, the party that lost might be able to ask the court to re-hear the case, or they might be able to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case.
Although this process can be lengthy and it’s very hard to wait when your freedom is in the balance, remember that nobody wants this decision to be made lightly or quickly. It’s ultimately in your best interest to respect the Federal Criminal Appeals process and do everything in your power to help your attorney make the best case for your appeal.
If your or your loved one are looking for a Federal Criminal Appeals attorney to review and/or handle your case please reach out to our office and schedule a complementary call to discuss how we might be able to help you.
The Law Office of Jeremy Gordon has been practicing federal criminal appeals and post-conviction law since 2012. We have had favorable outcomes in more than 70 cases in the past four years. Our entire staff is committed to providing excellent service to our clients and their families. We encourage you to contact our office today to visit with us on how we might be able to help you or your loved one get the representation they deserve. You can also add us on Facebook or Twitter. You may read more about appeals here.