Criminal Appeal Lawyer

Call us Today


Federal Criminal Appeals

Which Court Hears a Federal Appeal?


Federal Criminal Appeals are resolved in the Circuit Courts of Appeals. There are eleven circuits.

Federal Criminal Appeals Law Office-Federal Criminal Appellate Law Office

Federal criminal appeals out of Texas are heard in the Fifth Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is not necessary or even helpful for an attorney to reside in New Orleans to practice in front of the Fifth Court of Appeals. Instead, the overwhelming preponderance of the federal criminal appeal is accomplished through electronic filing.

Niles has handled appeals in the Fifth Circuit (Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi), the Seventh Circuit (Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana), and the Tenth Circuit (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Kansas, and Oklahoma). While there are differences between the circuits, the procedure and the core law are the same. Therefore we handle federal criminal appeals in every state and in every circuit.


Plea Bargains and Federal Criminal Appeals


Due to changes in the Sentencing Guidelines more than ninety percent of federal criminal cases are resolved through a plea bargain.  In most instances the plea agreement includes an appellate waiver. Potential clients are often surprised when they learn that they will not be able to appeal their conviction or sentence because of the plea agreement. If the client feels strongly about an appeal, then they should talk with their attorney about a “conditional plea” that permits a limited appeal.  A conditional plea is used most frequently with a pretrial motion (like a motion to suppress evidence in a drug case).


How Long do I Have to Decide to File Appeal?


Generally a notice of appeal for a federal criminal appeal needs to be filed within fourteen days of the entry of judgment. This is a short window in which to find an attorney, schedule a consultation, and to retain that attorney. It is best to start meeting with a federal criminal appeals attorney after the finding of guilty but before the sentence.

Niles understands that retaining a federal criminal appeals attorney can be time pressured and for that reason he provides his direct line and email to all clients and potential clients. You can reach Niles at (972) 204-5452 or


Sentencing Guidelines.


The Federal Sentencing Guidelines are complicated. But objecting to the guideline range and to the pre-sentence report can result in considerable benefits to the client in the form of a reduced sentence.

Many times clients will benefit from including a criminal appeals attorney in the process of objecting to the presentence report (PSR). These objections can provide a strong basis for an appeal.


We Are the Experienced Criminal Appeals Attorney that you Need.


We have handled complicated cases including appeals of cases involving:

  • White collar fraud
  • Conspiracy
  • A large variety of drug charges
  • Forced labor charges
  • Medicare fraud
  • Alien harboring cases
  • Maritime law issues
  • Certificates of appealability in 2254/2255 cases
  • etc.


When Should I Hire my Federal Criminal Appeals Attorney?


Our formal representation of you begins when the district court enters its judgment. The judgment includes the sentence. But it is advisable to contact us earlier. We have successfully helped accomplished trial attorneys with difficult pretrial motions and with presentence report objections. A powerful pretrial motion or a persuasive objection to the PSR can form the basis for a convincing appeal.


What is the Brief?


The primary task of a federal criminal appeals attorney is to write a brief for the client. A federal criminal appeal differs from  a trial because there is no new evidence and likely no public hearing. Instead the primary focus of a federal criminal appeal is the brief. The brief is a long, written argument that explains why the district court erred and why the client should receive a new trial, a new sentencing hearing, or be acquitted of the criminal charge.

The audience for the brief is the judges on the Court of Appeals and not the client. The brief should include a sophisticated legal argument, and this can make understanding the brief a challenge to a client or his or her family. The ideas in the brief might be complicated but the writing should be clear and readily understandable.


Will there be Oral Argument?


Oral argument is granted at the Court of Appeals discretion. The Fifth Circuit has twenty-six active judges and each one will have different criteria for selecting cases for oral argument. If oral argument is granted, the case will likely be argued in New Orleans. The focus of oral argument will be the arguments made in the briefs. There will be no witnesses, no new evidence, and no court reporter. Instead there will be three judges, the attorneys, and court staff. Clients and their families are welcome to attend the argument, but they are treated like members of the public and they sit in the public area behind the attorneys. Clients and their families do not have to attend oral argument.


Why Hire Us?


Niles learned to be an appellate attorney by working at the First Court of Appeals in Houston (a state appellate court). There he wrote draft opinions for the appellate justices and he read an incredible number of briefs. But it was in the conferences with the judges where Niles learned to identify the issues that convinced an appellate judge to reverse a trial court’s verdict or judgment and to grant the appellant relief.  This skill is not something that is learned in law school. Instead it is only learned by working in the appellate court.


Contact Us (Really, Contact Us).


We understand the need to move on a federal criminal appeal. Niles is available on his direct line at (972) 204-5452 or you can email him at or

Back to appellate services

Federal Criminal Appellate Lawyer Niles Illich

Why Choose Me ~ I Learned From The Best

I learned from the best. When I graduated law school, I did not know how to be an effective appellate advocate. But in my first job after law school I clerked for one of the most accomplished appellate judges in Texas. I look back on this like it was appellate “boot camp” and advanced legal writing all combined into one demanding year.  This was not an easy year for me, but I learned more in that year about appellate writing than I did in the prior three years of law school.

My direct line is (972) 204-5452 and I encourage you to call me or  you can reach me through my contact page.

Let's Work Together