If you get charged with a crime and convicted, one of your options is to exercise your right to appeal the verdict. This applies if you took the case all the way through trial and were convicted by a jury, or if you took a plea deal, so long as you reserved the right to appeal in your plea. However, while many courts are required to hear your appeal, other courts, like the Supreme Court of the United States, do not. Instead, these courts have the discretion to hear appeals.
When it comes the Supreme Court, in fact, far more appeals get refused than get heard.
An Appeal to the Supreme Court Comes Late in the Process
In the United States, our courts are arranged in a hierarchy – there are trial courts, appellate courts, and, finally, the supreme court. However, there are two separate hierarchies – state courts, and federal courts.
If your criminal charge is heard in the federal courts, then your first stop is at one of the 94 district courts in the United States. This is where your case gets heard, all the way up through the trial.
If you get convicted in the district court, then you have the right to appeal to the Circuit Court in which the district court sits. If your trial happened in either Florida, Alabama, or Georgia, this is the 11th Circuit Court, which is located in Atlanta, Georgia. If it happened in Kentucky or Tennessee, your appeal will go to the 6th Circuit, which is in Cincinnati. If the trial went before a federal court in either North or South Carolina, then your appeal will be heard by the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Virginia.
Only after going through this appeals process can you appeal your case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Certiorari Process
If your appeal to the Circuit Court does not come out the way you want it to, only then can you appeal to the United States Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court has what is called certiorari review, meaning that your attorney first has to convince the Supreme Court to take your case.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court rarely grants certiorari to hear a case. Under 1% of the cases that lawyers try to appeal to the Supreme Court get accepted. The rest of these cases are denied certiorari, and the decision by the Circuit Court stands.
However, just because the odds are low that the Supreme Court will take your appeal, it does not mean that it should not be pursued. After all, your liberty is at stake, and an appeal to the Supreme Court can overturn an adverse ruling by the Court of Appeals.
The Federal Criminal Law Center
Appealing your case to the Supreme Court of the United States might be an uphill battle, but having experienced appellate attorneys walking you through the process can be a great help. Contact the attorneys at the Federal Criminal Law Center online if you have appealed to a Circuit Court and are considering your options.