Within the United States, parties to both civil and criminal cases have the right to appeal decisions or verdicts that were unfavorable. State court systems decide their own rules of appellate procedure, while the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure govern federal appeals. While somewhat different, the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure are essentially the same for both civil and criminal cases. Time limits, notice, and procedures must be strictly adhered to or the appellant may lose his or her right to appeal.
Under the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, in a civil case, the appellant must file a notice of appeal within 30 days from the entry of judgment. In a criminal case, the defendant's notice of appeal must be filed within 14 days of the entry of judgment or the filing of the notice of appeal by the government. If the government is appealing in a criminal case, then after the entry of judgment or the filing by the defendant, the notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days. In some cases, a motion for extension of time or a motion for leave to file a late notice may be accepted by the court; however, the rules on timely appeals are very serious and failure to file within the time frame allotted may cause a party to lose the right to appeal at all.
The proper document that must be filed in order to appeal either a civil or criminal case with a federal appeals court is a notice of appeal. The notice of appeal essentially puts the court on notice that a party intends to appeal the judgment. The notice of appeal is filed in the court that entered the judgment.
Once the notice of appeal has been filed, the court may order that an appeals bond be posted by the appealing party. Under the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, a judge may order an appeals bond in order to ensure that the costs of the appeal are paid. Aside from any mandatory filing fees, the costs of transcribing the record on an appeal can be costly and the court wants to be certain that the appealing party has the funds to cover the expenses.
The record must then be sent up to the appellate court. Appeals are not a opportunity for a new trial. An appellate court simply looks at the record from the district court to determine if the court made any harmful errors that would have affected the outcome of the case. As such, the appellate court needs the entire record of the case from the district court. The parties may also submit briefs in support of their argument on appeal. Based on the record, briefs, and sometimes oral arguments, the appellate court judges will make a decision in the case.