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Most federal criminal cases are resolved through plea agreement. As a condition to such a plea, defendants often agree to waive their statutory right to appeal their conviction and sentence. While the appellate waiver wording varies by case, such waivers are generally enforceable in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Enforceability exists if the appellate waiver is unambiguous and the record demonstrates the defendant voluntarily entered into the agreement. Federal criminal appeals cases are replete with defendants being stymied by their own waiver. The recent Seventh Circuit decision of United States v. Davis reflects that trend. The defendant plead guilty to one count of mail fraud and in exchange for the dismissal of eight other counts, waived his appellate rights. Nevertheless, Davis appealed, contending his plea hearing by telephone conference violated federal criminal procedure rules. The Seventh Circuit disagreed, finding the appellate waiver precluded the Court from reaching the merits: “by signing a plea agreement waiving his right to appeal, Davis waived his right to appeal all errors.” Thus, criminal defendants must recognize the stark consequences of any plea agreement with an appellate waiver.

About the Author
Christopher Keleher clerked for the Hon. William J. Bauer of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  This unique opportunity provided Mr. Keleher with an invaluable understanding of the inner workings of an appellate court.  He saw what persuades judges and what does not, and utilizes this knowledge every time he writes an appellate brief. The Keleher Appellate Law Group handles all phases of appellate litigation in federal and state courts across the country. Read more here.