Let's review what happens if your federal criminal case is "remanded for further proceedings. If you are convicted of a federal crime and decide to appeal your case, the Court of Appeals may either uphold the lower court's decision or overturn the verdict.
But on occasion, the appellate judges may make a ruling of "remanded for further proceedings." What does this mean, and what implications does it have for your case?
When appellate courts successfully resolve post-conviction appeals, they complete their ruling by ordering that the case be “remanded for further proceedings.” In some cases, a phrase is added to the ruling requiring that the further proceedings be consistent with this opinion.
What exactly does “remand for further proceedings” mean? The word ‘remand” means to “return the case.” So, when a court “remands” a case, it means they are returning it to whichever court is designated, which is typically to the federal court from where the case first arrived.
Notably, a remand goes only from a higher to a lower court, and cases are not remanded unless there is some error or correction that the lower court must make. This is often a positive sign for defendants when a post-conviction appeal has been filed.
There are generally three levels of courts in the U.S. federal system. The lowest level is the trial courts, called “District Courts.” Next are the two levels of appellate courts, which are the Courts of Appeal and the United States Supreme Court.
If someone is convicted of a federal offense in a District Court, the appeal is taken to the appropriate Circuit Court of Appeal. Suppose the appeal is unsuccessful. In that case, there would be no reason to remand back to the lower court.
However, suppose the appeal is successful. In that case, the Court of Appeal will remand the case back down to the trial court for further proceedings, which might involve the following:
- A new trial;
- A new sentencing hearing and order;
- A correction of the trial court's order; or
- Other type of actions.
Suppose an appeal is taken to the Supreme Court. If there is a remand, it usually is back down to the Circuit Court of Appeal but could possibly remand back down to the District Court in a few cases. Let's take a closer look below.
What Does It Mean When a Case is Remanded?
As noted, to "remand" generally means to send back. When a federal case is remanded for further proceedings in legal parlance, a higher court, such as the U.S. Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court, sends the case back to the trial court where it originated.
This usually occurs because the appellate court has found some error in the lower court's decision, necessitating further examination or possibly a new trial. In many cases, this can work in your favor because the corrected errors might lead to modified sentencing or even an opportunity for a new jury to acquit you in a new trial.
When Might a Higher Court Decide to Remand a Case for Further Proceedings?
An appellate court typically decides to remand a federal case for further proceedings when they see some error that could have resulted in a different outcome. Some examples of reasons to remand a case include:
- Procedural Errors: If the appellate court identifies significant procedural errors in the trial court's conduct of the case, it may remand the case for corrections. These could include issues like improper jury instructions or incorrect application of rules of evidence.
- Factual Discrepancies: The appellate court may remand a case if it finds that the trial court has made factual findings that are clearly erroneous or unsupported by substantial evidence.
- Legal Errors: If the trial court has misinterpreted or misapplied the law, the appellate court may remand the case to correct these errors.
- Exclusion of Admissible Evidence: If the trial court has erroneously excluded evidence that should have been admitted, or if said evidence was not adequately considered, the appellate court may remand the case to allow for its consideration.
- Changes in Law: In rare cases, there might be significant changes in the relevant law since the trial court's decision. In those cases, the appellate court may remand the case for reconsideration in light of the new legal landscape.
What Happens Once a Case Is Remanded?
The remand order from the higher court will detail the reason for remanding the case and provide explicit instructions for the lower court to correct whatever errors were identified. These instructions guide the further proceedings, which may include a variety of actions:
- Reevaluation of Factual Findings: The lower court may need to reassess specific factual findings. This process could entail re-examining existing evidence, allowing for additional testimony, or conducting more comprehensive factual inquiries.
- Review of Legal Interpretations: If there were errors in the lower court's application of the law, the court would need to revisit its legal conclusions under the guidance of the higher court's feedback.
- New Trial Proceedings: A completely new trial may sometimes be necessary. This typically occurs when the original trial was significantly flawed due to procedural errors or other grave issues affecting the case outcome.
- Redetermination of Damages: If the damages awarded in the original trial were deemed inappropriate by the higher court, the lower court would have to reassess the damages.
- Consideration of New Evidence or Changes in Law: If new evidence has surfaced post the initial trial or if there have been significant changes in the relevant law, the lower court will need to consider these developments as part of the further proceedings. While the appeals court will not hear new evidence, your attorney may have the opportunity to introduce new evidence if the remanded case results in a new trial.
Following these proceedings, the lower court will issue a new judgment. This may confirm, alter, or reverse the original decision, depending on the outcome of the proceedings. It should be noted that this new judgment may also be subject to appeal, thus potentially extending the lifecycle of the case.
What Are the Advantages of a Remanded Case for the Accused?
While a remanded case extends the life of the case and is not a complete overturning of the lower court's decision, it may present opportunities for you as the defendant to be exonerated.
Correcting the errors in the initial trial often results in changes in the outcome that work in the defendant's favor—for example, a reduced or vacated sentence. If the remand results in a new trial, you have a whole new opportunity to be acquitted by a new jury.
For more information, contact our federal criminal defense and post-conviction appeal lawyers. We know how to effectively assess your federal criminal case to identify any legal grounds for appeal. Contact our law firm for a case review. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, California.