CRIMINAL APPEALS IN PENNSYLVANIA
When a criminal trial results in an unfavorable verdict, it may be possible to make an appeal to the appellate court. Your options after being found guilty depend on the crime and circumstances surrounding your case.
The best way to know what your options are is to speak directly with an experienced Pittsburgh Criminal Appeal Lawyer.
Appeals are time-sensitive and different than a lower court trial. Don’t miss your chance to appeal.
Speak to an aggressive and experienced appeals attorney as soon as possible after a conviction. Many people wait until it the deadline has passed and by then, they have missed some very valuable opportunities in their case.
APPEALING A VERDICT IN PENNSYLVANIA
The appellate process is completely different than the trial court process. It is far more technical and complicated.
In addition, there are strict time constraints throughout the process and missing a deadline could mean the loss of your right to appeal.
Not every criminal trial that is lost can be appealed. There has to be an issue of law, not an issue of fact. It is assumed that the facts of the case were determined during the trial court process.
Therefore, only proposed issues, or mistakes, made by the court during trial will be considered on appeal.
Having a criminal attorney who is experienced with appeals cases is extremely important.
Since the process is so different and not every case will qualify, you need someone knowledgeable to review your case and guide you through.
ISSUES THAT CAN BE RAISED ON APPEAL
In order to have a successful appeal, you must be able to prove there was a specific legal decision in the case that jeopardized the outcome. Not everything that occurs in a trial is a issue that is viable on appeal.
The most common challenges raised on appeal include:
- Failure of the court to suppress evidence;
- Failure of the court to suppress a statement or statements;
- Insufficient evidence;
- Prosecutor misconduct;
- Ineffective assistance of counsel;
- Incorrect evidentiary ruling, and;
- Excessive sentencing.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have a cause of action on one or more issue.
It is important that you cover all your bases when you appeal because once submitted, you will lose the right to appeal on those grounds later.
At Ketchel Law, we are very thorough and go over your case in tedious detail to make sure your rights are protected.
THE APPEAL PROCESS IN PENNSYLVANIA
The appeal process cannot begin in Pennsylvania until the defendant has been sentenced.
Immediately after sentencing, the appeal clock will start running. You must file your notice of appeal within thirty days of your sentencing. However, filing an appeal immediately is not always the best option.
In some cases, it is best to first file a post-sentence motion.
- Post-sentence motions must be filed within ten days of sentencing.
- Here, you are requesting the trial court to reconsider some aspect of the case.
- The trial court has up to 120 days to respond. Failure to respond is considered a denial.
- If the motion is denied or time lapses, you then have an additional thirty days to file your appeal.
Filing a Notice of Appeal
Once you file your notice of appeal, you will have twenty-one days to file a Statement of Errors Complained of on Appeal. This will list all of the errors you believe were made in the trial court that you plan to raise on appeal.
The trial court will respond to the Statement of Errors Complaint and explain its rulings. From there, the case will be transferred to the Superior Court, where appeals cases are heard.
Filing a Brief
Once the trial court response is received, the Defendant, now the Appellant, will have to file a brief and reproduce the record from the lower court within forty days of the order. For this step, the Superior Court does allow for extensions if a proper motion requesting more time is filed.
The brief is a very important part of the appeals process. You not only have to explain how the lower court failed, but you also have to explain what relief you seek. Specifically, you have to tell the court what you want them to do if they find that you are correct.
Most commonly, people ask for the following when appealing their criminal case:
- A new trial;
- Re-sentencing, or;
Once the Appellant has submitted their brief, the prosecution, now the Appellee, files its brief in response within thirty days.
The Appellant is given an additional opportunity to submit a brief in response to Appelle’s brief. This must be done within fourteen days after receipt of Appellee’s brief.
Not all cases that are submitted for appeal are chosen to be heard. If the case is chosen, the Superior Court will hear oral arguments from both sides in some, but not all, cases. If the court does decide to hear oral arguments, the Appellant goes first and Appellee second. The Appellant, however, can save some of the time from their argument for rebuttal and speak again after the Appellee.
From there, the case will be reviewed by a three judge panel who will come to their determination and hand down a written decision.
IF YOU LOSE YOUR APPEAL
If you lose your appeal in Superior Court, it is not necessarily the end of the case.
First, the losing party on appeal has the right to request an “en banc” appeal. These are very rare, but they do happen. This request asks that a larger group of judges review the case. Here, the process begins again from the brief filing stage.
The final step on appeal is to request the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review your case. The motion must be filed within thirty days of the Superior Court’s decision.
The Supreme Court hears a very limited number of cases each year. If your case is selected, you will begin the process again with compiling the record and filing briefs. The Supreme Court hears oral argument in all of its cases.
HOW A PITTSBURGH APPELLATE ATTORNEY CAN HELP
The appeal process is vastly different from the trial court process. It involves precision, attention to detail, and superior knowledge of the law. You cannot take a risk with hiring someone who is simply capable. You need someone with experience and dedication.
Attorney Ketchel’s extensive experience as a former public defender, and in private practice, gives him a distinct advantage when handling appeals cases.
We understand what you are going through and will tirelessly fight on your behalf.
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