Every defendant has the right to file an appeal to a higher court. The procedure is put in place to ensure fair trials and minimize legal errors that may affect the outcome of criminal cases. According to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, the number of appeals filed is increasing by a substantial amount every year.
The result is predictable. Federal criminal appeals take longer to process. The different court circuits we have in this country are taking active steps towards speeding up the process.
Long Waiting Time
According to the same reports from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, most federal criminal appeals take 17 months to reach a verdict. The process is shorter in particular court circuits, but it can also be very long in others.
Among the 12 court circuits available in this country, the Fourth Circuit is the fastest one when handling appeals. The circuit, covering Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, has an average time of 8 months for every appeal case filed.
If you file for an appeal in the Ninth Circuit, however, expect the waiting time to be as long as 22 months. There is a large volume of cases waiting to be processed in the circuit which covers California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, so it is not always possible to reach a resolution quickly.
According to experienced criminal appeals attorney Morris A. Anyah, more criminal appeals are processed on-the-briefs. The approach means no hearings or court sessions are required to review the appeal case objectively. Judges only examine the case based on the case documents filed in the appeal.
On-the-briefs resolutions are helping court circuits process appeals faster. The judicial system is also assigning more judges to federal court circuits, expanding their capacity to review and process appeals every year.
The defendant or the appellant first files an opening brief. After studying the opening brief, the appellee – usually the government in many criminal cases – is given a chance to file a responsive brief. The latter is to give the appellee an opportunity to answer to every claim filed in the opening brief. There are no oral arguments involved in the proceedings.
Chances of Success
Ideally, you would want your appeal to be heard in court. Presenting oral arguments is a proven way to increase the likelihood of success in a criminal appeal filing. Naturally, you need a good attorney to represent you and your case.
There are other ways to improve your chance of success in filing a criminal appeal. Even when the appeal is processed on-the-briefs, constructing a strong set of arguments and citing previous cases are two known methods of increasing the chances of getting the expected resolution.
The steps taken by the court circuits and judicial system across the country will not lower the quality of resolutions produced through appeals, according to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. Courts will take the proper steps and precautions to ensure fair trials for all.