Get a Free Case Review

(215) 302-0171

The Process of Appealing a Criminal Conviction in Pennsylvania

When you lose a criminal case, it can feel like the world is crashing around you. Indeed, you have probably spent a great deal of time-fighting a hard legal battle to get to this point, only to come up short and have the jury not rule your way. While a criminal conviction is indeed a harrowing experience, you still have options open to you. One of those options is to appeal your case if you believe something went wrong during the process.

If you are thinking about appealing your case, you need to speak to an attorney quickly. You have a very limited time to file your appeal, and there are some rules regarding what you can and cannot appeal a case for. Luckily, we can help you out.

For a totally free and confidential case review, call The Law Offices of Lloyd Long at the number (215) 302-0171 and talk to our Philadelphia criminal appeals lawyers.

When Can You Appeal a Case in Pennsylvania

You can appeal your case when there was a legal error that can be fixed on appeal. Factual findings by the jury are not able to be appealed. Examples of legal error would include an a judge misinterpreting a law or ruling the wrong way on an objection.

To raise an issue on appeal, the legal error has to be “reversible.” This means that the alleged mistake changed the outcome of the case, and the appeals court can reverse the decision and send the case back. “Harmless” errors that will not change the outcome of the case cannot be successfully appealed.

A successful appeal of an unlawful conviction gets your conviction overturned and grants you a new trial to make sure that justice is administered fairly.

A Guide to the Criminal Appeal Process in Pennsylvania Courts

The process of appealing a case can almost be as long as the trial itself. There are many steps along the way before an appeal is heard before the appropriate appeals court. Below, our Bucks County criminal appeals lawyers have put together a guide to help you through the Pennsylvania criminal appeal process.

Notice of Appeal

The first step in the Pennsylvania appeal process is filing what is called a notice of appeal. This essentially lets the court know that you wish to appeal the case and why. You must file your notice of appeal within 30 days of when you are sentenced, so it is imperative that you speak with an attorney and figure out whether you want to appeal or not quickly.

Record On Appeal

Once the court knows that you are going to appeal a case, they will start preparing a “record on appeal.” This is a recording of everything that happened at trial in your case. The record on appeal will form the bedrock of what the appeals court judge is going to work off of to make their determinations. The record can include court documents, evidence exhibits, and anything else the court feels is needed to have an effective and fair appeal proceeding.


The next step is to have each side of the case file a brief with the court. A brief is a formal legal document where lawyers set forth their arguments and explain why the court should rule a certain way. Both attorneys then send their briefs to the judge, who examines them and will rely on them heavily when coming to a decision.

The brief is arguably the most important part of the appeals process, and our lawyers will work incredibly hard to make sure your brief is as effective as possible. Depending on your case, there may even be multiple briefs that need to be filed for different issues. Additionally, there will also be a need to respond to briefs from opposing counsel in many situations.

Oral Argument

In some, but not all, appeals cases, there will be “oral arguments” between attorneys. During oral arguments, attorneys argue in support of their briefs to convince the judge to rule in their favor and address any confusion or outstanding questions the judge has about each side’s arguments. Notably, there is no jury present in an appeals court, although there may be observers. Working on an appeal is very different from arguing at trial. Our Pennsylvania criminal appeals lawyers have the skillset necessary to advocate for you on appeal, so you should speak with us as soon as you can.

It is up to the judge whether there is an oral argument or not in a given appeal, so there is no guarantee as to whether there will be an oral argument for any issues in your specific appeal.

Decision on Appeal

The appeals judge, after weighing the arguments and briefs from each side of the case, examining all of the evidence, and carefully going over the record on appeal, will issue their “decision.” Unlike at trial, where a verdict is generally “guilty” or “not guilty,” there are a lot of different things that an appeals judge can do here.

First, they can affirm the decision of the lower court. This means that the judge is OK with what the trial court did, and whatever conclusions they came to are going to stay. Second, they can reverse the decision, meaning that the judge disagrees and is changing the result to the opposite.

New Trial

A judge will often “remand” a case. When a case is remanded, it is sent back down to the trial court for additional proceedings or, in the case of an overturned conviction, a new trial. The appeals judge also has the option to keep the result of the original trial but modify the sentence. If our lawyers represent you during an appeal, we can also represent you at your new trial and seek to get the case thrown out or a not guilty verdict in your favor.

Options After an Appeal

After losing an appeal, your options are limited if the case does not go how you want it to. At that point, your options are more or less to appeal your case to the next level, potentially all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and maybe eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court. Doing so would require serious consideration by both you and our lawyers.

Other Post-Conviction Options in Pennsylvania

There are some limited options available to you to file “post-conviction” or “collateral” appeals following a criminal conviction and a failed appeal. You may be entitled to some post-conviction relief if you received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial or if the prosecutor withheld information that cut against your guilt. You can also potentially get a new trial for changes in science, newly uncovered facts, and changes in constitutional law. You should speak to our attorneys about these additional post-conviction options.

Chat with Our Pennsylvania Criminal Appeals Lawyers Today

Reach out to The Law Offices of Lloyd Long and speak to one of our Delaware County criminal defense lawyers by calling (215) 302-0171