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Federal Appeals

When filing a federal criminal appeal, it’s important to have an experienced appellate lawyer to continue your fight for justice. The offices of Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire are located just blocks away from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, at 601 Market Street in Philadelphia, PA. Brian is an experienced appellate advocate. He has argued in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

When clients talk about a federal criminal appeal, many do not understand the various types of relief available. The following is a list of appellate terms in Third Circuit Appeals that may help focus your case:

Federal Criminal Appeal: Any matter that was listed and heard in a federal district court can be appeal. Therefore, any criminal matter that was listed in district court, when appealed is a federal criminal appeal. Normally people think of this type of an appeal when the prosecution originated in federal court and the case resulted in a guilty finding, a guilty plea, or a sentencing, where the client wants to appeal the ruling of the judge. However, there are many other ways to get to the Third Circuit.

Direct Appeal: A direct appeal is the same idea as a direct appeal in state court. In a direct appeal you generally appeal from guilty finding, a guilty plea, or a sentencing. In a direct appeal, you argue the judge or the prosecutor (United State Attorney), did something wrong or made a mistake. In a direct appeal, you are asking that your case be thrown out entirely, your conviction be thrown out and you get a new trial, or that you are resentenced.

2255 Motion: A 2255 Motion is a motion similar to a petition under the Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) in state court, but in federal court. In a 2255 you are asserting your lawyer did a poor job. This petition is filed in the trial court and appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. A 2255 Motion is considered an appeal because your best chance of winning is as a Third Circuit Appeal. Its hard to conceptualize a 2255 Motion as an appellate case, but the law views the 2255 Motion as a collateral appeal of your case; that is, you are not appealing the merits, but something to the left or right of the case, like your own lawyer was bad, new DNA technology exists that would prove your innocence, or your received an illegal sentence. You are not saying the judge or the prosecutor did anything wrong.

Section 9781 of the Sentencing Code (42 Pa.C.S. § 9781) provides that the defendant or the Commonwealth may file a ''petition for allowance of appeal'' of the discretionary aspects of a sentence for a felony or a misdemeanor. The notice of appeal under this chapter (see Rule 904 (content of the notice of appeal)) operates as the ''petition for allowance of appeal'' under the Sentencing Code. It automatically raises all possible questions under 42 Pa.C.S. § 9781 and is available and appropriate even where no issue relating to guilt or the legality of the sentence (in the sense that the sentence falls outside of the range of discretion vested by law in the sentencing court) is presented. No additional wording is required or appropriate in the notice of appeal.

Rule 35 Motion: A Rule 35 Motion is not truly an appeal. It’s a motion filed after sentencing asking the sentencing judge to re-open the sentencing and give you less time because you have provided substantial assistance to the government post sentencing. An example of this would be if you cooperated with the government pre-sentencing, but after sentencing, you testified for the government in multiple cases in multiple districts throughout the country. This motion is very similar to a 5k1.1. Mr. Zeiger includes Rule 35 Motions with Third Circuit Appeals because the Rule 35 Motion occurs after sentencing. Post trial matters and post sentencing matters, are very similar to appeals, so Mr. Zeiger groups them together to better conceptualize the issues for his clients.

Habeas Petition: A Habeas Petition is where you are appealing a state court ruling in federal court. Similar to a 2255 Motion, the matter starts in the district court and is appealed to the Third Circuit. In a Habeas Petition, you are generally arguing the federal courts and federal laws set a constitutional floor for your rights. The term “your rights” has many meanings, but in a Habeas Petition, Mr. Zeiger is talking about your federal constitutional rights. By a floor, the state cannot go below the floor of your federal constitutional rights. If the state went below that floor, the federal court steps in and removes the conviction. Habeas Corpus means release the body. An example of a good Habeas Petition issue would be when you lose your motion to suppress under the 4th amendment of the US constitution in state court, but the federal case law is in conflict with the state case law, where under the federal case law, the motion should have been granted.

Third Circuit Appeals: A Third Circuit Appeal is any matter appealed from any district court in the Third Circuit. While Brian is only licensed to practice in three of the six districts that comprise the Third Circuit, he is fully licensed to practice in the Third Circuit and can appeal a case from any district within the Third Circuit. The districts in the Third Circuit are: District of Delaware, District of New Jersey, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Middle District of Pennsylvania, Western District of Pennsylvania and the District Court of the Virgin Islands. I am fully licensed to practice in Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Middle District of Pennsylvania, and the Western District of Pennsylvania. In the event that something needs to be filed in any of the other district courts while an appeal is ongoing, Mr. Zeiger can file a motion to appear pro hac vice, which means for this this occasion, meaning for this case only, and be allowed to work on your case.

If you need to appeal your criminal conviction, contact Brian Zeiger today for a FREE CONSULTATION at (215) 825-5183.