If you’re thinking about appealing your recent conviction in a federal criminal case, you might be echoing a commonly asked question: how often to appeals result in dismissal? The answer is more difficult to determine than you might think. There are definitely “number crunchers” out there who can provide some statistics, but these are unable to take into account the complexities of our justice system and the diversity of court cases that process through it every day—let alone the nuances of your particular case. Nevertheless, it’s a topic worth delving into a little further.
First of all, while most trial cases are subject to review by an appeals court, it’s important to understand that the appeals court will usually only reverse the decision if there is sufficient evidence that significant errors were committed or that the defendant’s rights were somehow violated. In other words, if all the people involved at the trial court level have done their job correctly and you ended up with a conviction, chances are fairly good that the conviction will be upheld at the appellate level. Statistics are variable depending on which Circuit Court of Appeals is being considered, but by the numbers alone, it’s a safe estimate that your case has a 60-85% chance of being upheld.
If there is clear suspicion that justice hasn’t been properly served, and if either side disagrees with the appeals court decision, there is also the possibility of having your case referred to the U.S. Supreme Court. In this situation, the numbers change a little, because the Supreme Court selects which cases to review, and will usually only hear a case if there is reason to believe an issue has occurred. Thus, while the chances of any individual case making it to the Supreme Court are remote, IF your case gets heard by the Supreme Court, you may have a near 50% chance of reversal, statistically speaking. (Roy E. Hofer published an informative paper on this topic here.)
All that said, every case is unique, and you can’t accurately predict by the numbers whether your case has a chance of being overturned or dismissed at the appellate level. Only a skilled and experience attorney is qualified to look over your case with you and determine the chances of your appeal resulting in dismissal. To learn more, contact the Federal Criminal Law Group today.