If you are indicted and charged with a federal crime like drug trafficking, your case will have two outcomes: an acquittal or a conviction. An acquittal means that the law may no longer pursue you over the matter. A conviction, on the other hand, means that you will go for sentencing.
If you are convicted of a crime, you may choose to serve the sentence or appeal the conviction. Basically, an appeal is a legal process through which a convict petitions a higher court to review the decision of the lower court. The job of the appeal court is to ensure that the trial court applied the law correctly or erred while convicting you.
While federal law is generally uniform across the circuits, all federal appeals apply the same procedure.
So, what can you argue while appealing a federal conviction?
Creating a strong argument for an appeal
It is important to understand that an appeal is not a new trial. In other words, this is not an opportunity to determine whether you are guilty or innocent. Rather, the appeal court establishes whether the trial court duly convicted you. As such, it’s often senseless trying to pursue the same line of argument as you did during your trial.
Here are two approaches you can use when appealing your conviction:
- Standard of view – this refers to how the appeal court will handle the trial court’s decision. This can be an abuse of discretion or a clear error (de novo). The appeal court will often reverse the conviction if it establishes that the trial court erred in its conviction.
- Prejudice – to successfully reverse a conviction, you will need to demonstrate that the trial court’s error directly impacted the outcome of your case and that this worked against you.
If you believe you have been wrongly convicted of a crime, you may need to exercise your right to appeal. Taking the right legal approach and presenting your arguments in an effective and clear manner is crucial for maximizing your odds of winning an appeal.