After you have been convicted of a crime, you may be able to overturn your conviction using a criminal appeal. The criminal appeals process in Pennsylvania can be highly complex and, at times, discouraging. However, you should not give up on any opportunities that can help turn your criminal case around.
If you or a family member was convicted of a crime, you should consult with an experienced Philadelphia criminal appeals attorney today. Defense attorney Lloyd Long is deeply familiar with Pennsylvania’s criminal appeals process, and he is prepared to represent you. When you or a family member has been unexpectedly convicted of a crime or given an excessive or illegal sentence, the attorneys at our firm stand ready to assist you. To schedule your free consultation at the Law Offices of Lloyd Long, call us at (215) 525-6818.
How to File a Criminal Appeal in Pennsylvania
If you have been convicted of any crime in Pennsylvania, you have a constitutional right to file an appeal for your case. The procedures at the appellate level differ greatly from those at the trial level. Therefore, you should ensure you have an experienced attorney that is familiar with Pennsylvania’s appellate process and can competently handle your appeal.
It is important to understand that you must be convicted to file an appeal. If the charges against you were dismissed or you were acquitted of any criminal charges, there is no case to appeal.
Generally, there are two types of criminal appeals that a convicted individual can pursue after sentencing: a direct appeal or a collateral appeal.
Pennsylvania’s Superior Court is responsible for reviewing the majority of direct appeals. To have your case reviewed by the Superior Court, you must file a notice of appeal with the Court of Common Pleas where you were convicted. You should ensure that the notice of appeal is timely filed within 30 days of receiving your sentence or your right to appeal may be affected.
When a case is on appeal, the appellate lawyer seeks to demonstrate that the trial court committed a legal error which entitles the defendant to the requested relief. A defendant can request to receive a new trial, resentencing, or a complete dismissal of the charges levied against them. As mentioned above, criminal appeals are different from trials because the judges do not go back through all issues brought up in the trial. For example, challenging the truth of witness testimony or facts the prosecution presented will not help you get your charges dismissed. Instead, you must assert that the lower court committed a “mistake of law” that had a serious impact on your case.
There are several claims of mistake of law or legal error that you can focus on for your appeal:
- Suppression of Evidence: If you filed a motion to suppress a certain piece of evidence during your trial and your motion was denied, the Superior Court may overturn that ruling and grant you a new trial.
- Suppression of a Statement: If you made a statement to law enforcement that you believe should not have been presented during your trial because it violated your Miranda rights or came after an illegal arrest, you may challenge the trial court’s ruling on appeal.
- Excessive Sentence: If the sentence you received is grossly disproportionate to the crime that you allegedly committed, you can challenge the lower court’s ruling on appeal.
This is not an exhaustive list of claims that can be reviewed on appeal
It is also important to note that if your lawyer did not object to a mistake of law during your trial, it would not be “preserved” for appeal and the Superior Court may not review the claim.
When you file a direct appeal, it goes to the Superior Court first. If you are still unhappy with the outcome, you may be able to escalate your claim to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and then the U.S. Supreme Court, if they are willing to hear your case.
If you exhaust all of your direct appeal options, you can still turn to a “collateral appeal.” Pennsylvania’s Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) allows a defendant to challenge their conviction on constitutional and statutory grounds, even years after the conviction.
One of the most common claims used to challenge a conviction is “ineffective assistance of counsel.” An ineffective assistance of counsel claim alleges that your trial lawyer did not provide you with competent legal representation and that their ineffectiveness substantially impacted your trial. This claim can be difficult to prove because Pennsylvania presumes that you received effective representation during your trial.
Other grounds for a PCRA appeal include the following:
- A violation of your constitutional rights calls into question the legitimacy of your trial.
- The discovery of new evidence that was not available during your trial calls into question the results of the trial.
- The government obstructed your right to a lawful appeal or your right to access certain evidence.
PCRA claims should be filed within one year of the date of you lost your appeal. If your petition is based on new evidence or information, you have 60 days from when you received that evidence to file your claim. PCRA deadlines should be strictly followed to avoid the possibility of losing your right to appeal.
Additionally, if your PCRA claim is unsuccessful, you may be able to file an appeal with the federal courts using a “habeas corpus” petition.
Our Criminal Appeals Lawyers Are Ready to Represent You
If you or a family member needs to appeal a conviction, you should speak with an experienced Philadelphia criminal appeals lawyer today. The Law Offices of Lloyd Long are prepared to guide you through Pennsylvania’s complex criminal appeals process. To schedule a free consultation, call us at (215) 525-6818.