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Law Offices of Gilbert Schaffnit Gainesville Criminal Defense Lawyer

Understanding the Federal Criminal Appeal Process

Across the U.S. media landscape, Americans are inundated with television reporters throwing around the word “appeal” when referring to federal criminal cases. However, few people truly understand what this term means and the process it entails. A guilty verdict to a criminal offense is obviously a crushing blow, however, it is important to understand that this is not the end. Mistakes happen at trial and there is a chance your attorney was not effective at their job. The reality is that roughly 7 percent of criminal convictions are reversed by the United States Courts of Appeals. And while the appeals process is extremely daunting and there are no guarantees, with the help of an experienced Florida federal criminal appeal lawyer your case can get the proper attention it deserves, and you may be able to regain your freedom.

An Appeal Is Not A Retrial 

Many people confuse an appeal with a second trial, however, the reality is an appeal and trial share almost nothing in common. A federal criminal appeal consists mainly of legal writing where the attorneys debate any legal error that may have occurred during the trial. During an appeal there are no juries, but rather court proceedings that predominantly consist of legal discussions; and, for the most part, appellate courts do not consider new evidence.

Time Frame 

The federal criminal appeals process is generally very slow and it can take years to complete. Federal appeals courts are jammed packed and the process can be extremely time consuming for the judge reviewing the case. The judge and their team of staff attorneys will need to review and research legal precedent and compare it to the information they have on hand. 


A brief is written by your attorney and serves as the primary part of your appeal. Within the brief your attorney will argue on your behalf and outline the legal errors they believe occurred during the trial. Following your brief (known as the opening brief) the opposition will file their brief (known as the responsive brief). The purpose of this brief is to address and refute the arguments made in the opening brief. Following the responsive brief, your attorney will have the opportunity to file a reply brief if they believe it is necessary. In the reply brief your attorney can address the arguments made in the responsive brief.

What if You Lose?

While it is never a good thing to lose at the appellate level, a loss does not mean it is the end. You must promptly consult with your attorney to identify any possibility you make have. Such things as habeas corpus and other forms of challenging your criminal sentence may be available to you. However, it is important to act quickly as generally there is not a lot of time to act before deadlines pass.

Reach Out to Us for Help

Unfortunately, our judicial system can fail and if that happens the Law Offices of Gilbert A. Schaffnit in Florida are here to stand by your side. Our dedicated federal and state appeals team has over 30 years of experience assisting our clients through the appeals process. It is important to remember that time is not on your side, if you are in need of assistance call us today at 352-378-6503 to receive a free initial phone consultation.


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