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How Much Do Federal Appeal Lawyers Cost?

Linda Julin McNamara
Attorney Linda Julin McNamara
Federal Appeals Team Lead
Former Deputy Chief, Appellate Division
Elizabeth Stepp
Attorney Elizabeth K. Stepp
Federal Appeals Team
Partner & Yale Graduate

One of the most pressing questions that criminal defendants have about the federal appeals process is how much it will cost. The unfortunate answer is that, because there is no “average” appeal, it is extremely difficult to say what an “average” cost will be. Numerous factors can alter the complexity, and therefore the expense, of an appeal. However, many federal criminal appeals that the defense lawyers at Oberheiden P.C. handle cost between $10,000 and $30,000.

Some cost less. Many cost more. Recovering some of them if you prevail on appeal is a very real possibility.

If you have been convicted for a federal offense, though, the cost of invoking your right to appeal the outcome is a small one when compared to the penalties of letting the conviction stand unchallenged. The federal appeals attorneys at Oberheiden P.C. have handled numerous successful defense appeals across the country. Hiring them for your appeal is an investment in your future.

The Many Expenses of Appealing a Federal Criminal Conviction

If you were accused of committing a federal offense and got convicted at trial, you have a legal right to file an appeal. By filing the appeal, you can challenge the outcome of the trial. However, appealing is a costly affair, with fees and costs at nearly every juncture of the process, as well as attorneys’ fees that are often pricier than they were for the trial.

Fortunately, it is possible to recover attorneys’ fees and court costs on appeal, but only if you win.

Court Costs

Many people are surprised to learn that it costs money to file cases and other materials in court. Nearly every activity has a fee associated with it. Collectively, they are referred to as “court costs.” While there may be some variation in these costs between courthouses, federal appellate courts – also known as Circuit Courts – generally follow the Court of Appeals Miscellaneous Fee Schedule.

Under this Schedule, it costs $500 to file an appeal of most criminal convictions. This expense is incurred right out of the gate – it is fee that is required to be paid in order to get the appeal moving.

There are also fees with the district court – the federal courthouse that held the trial – to send the record of the trial court to the Circuit Court and prepare the transcript of the trial for use during the appeal. There may also be additional fees for copying and other administrative tasks.

Many of these expenses are fairly small. However, when they are totaled together, they can easily run over a thousand dollars, especially when the case was a complicated one.

Attorneys’ Fees

People are less surprised to learn that there are attorneys’ fees to be paid for a federal criminal appeal. However, few of them realize why fees for appellate work are often higher than they are for trial work.

The reason for the generally higher cost of attorneys’ fees for appeals rather than for the trial is that the work is much different. Worse, a lot of it has to be done in a small timeframe.

For example, after the conviction or court order to be appealed, Rule 4(b) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure only gives you and your appellate attorney 14 days to file a notice of appeal with the district court that held the trial. There is a lot that needs to be done during those two weeks, and while some of it can be done before the conviction or court order, some of it cannot.

Additionally, the type of work that your lawyers will do during the appeal will be different than what was done during the pre-trial and trial process. While trials focus on arguing over what happened and whether it amounted to a federal crime, appeals focus on arguing over what the law is, or why the trial court’s decision was improper. This often involves extremely in-depth research involving the statutes involved, the Congressional intent behind their original passage, any regulatory interpretations of those statutes, and judicial case law that explains what the statutes and their regulations mean. That legal research, together with close readings of opinions written by the appellate judges that will hear your appeal, lead to the legal briefs that your appeals lawyer will file in Circuit Court to persuade the judges there to overturn your conviction.

Finally, if the Circuit Court schedules oral arguments, there is the work in preparing for these hearings. This preparation can, and should, be quite extensive: Your future depends on a strong performance – one that can be complicated by questions from the bench during it.

Put our highly experienced team on your side

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden



Lynette S. Byrd
Lynette S. Byrd

Former DOJ Trial Attorney


Brian J. Kuester
Brian J. Kuester

Former U.S. Attorney

Amanda Marshall
Amanda Marshall

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

John W. Sellers
John W. Sellers

Former Senior DOJ Trial Attorney

Linda Julin McNamara
Linda Julin McNamara

Federal Appeals Attorney

Aaron L. Wiley
Aaron L. Wiley

Former DOJ attorney

Local Counsel

Roger Bach
Roger Bach

Former Special Agent (DOJ)

Chris Quick
Chris J. Quick

Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)

Michael S. Koslow
Michael S. Koslow

Former Supervisory Special Agent (DOD-OIG)

Ray Yuen
Ray Yuen

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

Factors in the Cost of an Appeal

Particularly when it comes to attorneys’ fees, there are several factors that can drastically alter the costs of appealing a federal criminal conviction.

The most important is the complexity and the number of issues that are being raised on appeal.

Most criminal appeals hinge on a single legal dispute – sometimes the meaning of one word in the criminal statute – while others can challenge multiple problems with the trial’s outcome. Each issue that gets added to the appeal can vastly increase the costs of filing it, as your appellate attorneys will pursue it all the way to its endpoint in an attempt to use it to overturn your conviction.

However, not all legal issues are identical. Some are more complicated than others. For example, a simple issue is when the district court judge misapplied the law to your case. Proving that they did so can be as simple as showing that the law was something other than what the trial judge used. A complicated issue, on the other hand, can be what is known as a “circuit split,” where the different Circuit Courts have interpreted a single law in multiple different ways – one of which would uphold your conviction, while another would overturn it. In these cases, you have to persuade the Circuit Court judges to adopt the interpretation of the law that is in your interests. These cases frequently go the Supreme Court of the United States in order to have the highest federal court resolve the disagreeing Circuit Courts.

Some Frequently Asked Questions About Oberheiden P.C.’s Appellate Services

What is a Federal Appeal Like?


The appeals process is not something that most Americans are familiar with. Compared to the pomp and formality of the trial that are so often depicted in popular TV shows like Law and Order, the appeals process is mysterious and hidden, mainly because these TV programs focus on the drama that trials can bring out.

Appeals are much more subdued, almost academic affairs. There is no retrial. There might not even be an oral argument if the judges hearing the case decide that they can issue a ruling on the briefs presented.

What Happens After the Appeal?


It depends on whether the appeal is in your favor or not.

If the appellate court rules against you, you can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States. While the Supreme Court refuses to hear the vast majority of the cases that it is presented with, if yours involves novel or unsettled points of law it may be accepted.

If the appellate court sides with you, it will remand the case, or send it back to the district court with instructions on how to resolve the issues you have raised with the outcome. This may require the district court to hold a new trial.

Why Should I Hire Oberheiden P.C. for My Appeal?


There are several reasons to trust Oberheiden P.C. with your criminal appeal.

First, our lawyers are all senior level attorneys who practice exclusively in federal courthouses. That intimate understanding of federal law is at its most potent during the appeals process.

Second, all of the legal work that you will receive will be done by those experienced senior attorneys. Unlike most other law firms, we do not employ junior associates or paralegals. You can count on the fact that all of the work and all of the strategizing in your case will come from an extremely experienced lawyer.

Third, you can rest assured that your concerns will be heard directly by the senior attorneys on your case, rather than diluted or altered as your communications get passed up the law firm’s chain of command. At Oberheiden P.C. you have direct access to the senior lawyer on your case.

Why Doesn’t Oberheiden P.C. Call Itself the Best Federal Criminal Appeals Law Firm?


Because we think it is more appropriate for our results to say those sorts of things. Many of our prior clients have spoken extremely highly of the legal representation that we have provided for the appellate proceedings of their cases.

Hiring Oberheiden P.C. for Your Appeal is an Investment in Your Future

Appealing a criminal conviction, a sentence, or a court order that goes against your interests is one of the most important aspects of a criminal defense strategy. In many cases, defense lawyers know that they are going to have to secure an appeal in order to win your case.

Getting solid legal representation for your appeal is perhaps even more important than having it during the trial. Appeals require an intimate understanding of the law – both as it is and as it should be.

The defense lawyers at Oberheiden P.C. have handled the appeals of numerous federal defendants and secured favorable outcomes in many of those cases. Call them at (888) 680-1745 or contact them online for the legal representation that you need to take your case to the next level.

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