If you’ve been convicted of committing a federal crime in South Carolina, having an experienced attorney representing your interests during the appeals process can have a great impact on how much you pay in fines or prison time. An attorney with experience in South Carolina federal appeals can implement post-trial strategies that can result in reduced sentences, and sometimes even overturned verdicts.
Federal Appeals in South Carolina
The U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina is part of the 4th Federal Circuit, whose Court of Appeals is located in Richmond, Virginia. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is presided over by three judges appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by Congress. The job of this court is not to hear new evidence or re-try the case, but rather to review all aspects of the trial itself to ensure that the defendant received due process and a fair trial. All South Carolina federal appeals are referred to this court for review.
The Federal Appeals Process
If you are tried in federal court and convicted, you and your attorney should decide right away whether the case should be appealed, because there is a limited window of time in which a “notice of appeal” can be filed with the courts. Despite the emphasis on justice, fairness and due process in the court system, inevitably mistakes occur, and many times these mistakes can have a negative impact on the outcome of your case. If there are any errors, abuses or instances of negligence that may have denied you the due process guaranteed you by the Constitution, your attorney will file an appeal for the higher court to review your case.
In your appeal, your criminal defense attorney will submit a written brief to the Court of Appeals detailing specific instances in which significant errors occurred, and appealing to the court to remedy these mistakes. Sometimes, the court will summon the attorneys for short oral arguments, but in most cases the judges will rule solely based on court documents and the written briefs.
The Appeals Court Decision
Once the Court of Appeals has reviewed your case, read the attorney briefs and possibly heard oral arguments, it may either affirm, modify or vacate the lower court decision. By affirming, the judges are saying that they see no significant errors that negatively affected the outcome, and your verdict and sentence will stand. By modifying, the Court of Appeals is recognizing some errors or miscarriages of justice that can be corrected without a complete overturning of the verdict. The court will prescribe these corrections and remand the case back to the District Court for resentencing. By vacating the lower court decision, the judges are saying that the errors are significant enough to render the trial invalid. This effectively overturns your conviction, at which point the U.S. Attorneys must decide whether to retry the case.
Our Experience with South Carolina Federal Appeals
Because the appeals process is often the final opportunity you have for an overturned or modified conviction, it’s of the utmost importance to hire an attorney with plenty of experience with written briefs and post-trial strategies in federal courts. As a member attorney in good standing with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, Marcia Shein has extensive experience with South Carolina federal appeals, and has seen appeals result in mitigated sentences or overturned verdicts for many of her clients. (Check out a list of our successful appeals here.)