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When Can You Appeal a Criminal Conviction in Pennsylvania?

A “guilty” verdict in a criminal trial can be a devastating experience. Many defendants may fear that their lives are going to be changed forever and certain opportunities, relationships, and other things are going to be taken away. This reality can feel even more certain as the defendant is being sentenced. However, getting convicted of a crime is not always the end of the road. Defendants often have the option to file an appeal, especially if they suspect that a mistake was made that led to their being convicted.

You can appeal a criminal conviction in Pennsylvania when you believe a reversible legal error led to the conviction. One of the things you must do is establish the grounds on which you are appealing. There are many different grounds for appealing a criminal conviction, and the reason that you appeal your case will depend on the unique facts and circumstances of your situation.

For a confidential, free review and discussion of your situation, call (215) 302-0171 and speak with the Philadelphia criminal appeals attorneys from The Law Offices of Lloyd Long.

When Does it Make Sense to Appeal a Criminal Conviction in Pennsylvania?

While every defendant has the right to appeal their claim, it is not always practical to do so. This is because an appeal does not change factual findings. Appeals only contest the legal portions of a case.

In addition to the error you are appealing being a legal, rather than factual error, that error being fixed also needs to have an impact on the ultimate outcome of your case. If fixing the error does not change anything, it is a “harmless” error, and an appeal probably will not be successful. The error being fixed needs to alter the case’s outcome in order for an appeal to be worth it.

Grounds for Appealing a Criminal Case in Pennsylvania

An important part of a criminal appeal is having grounds for appeal. “Grounds” are essentially the basis on which you are raising your appeal. There are different grounds on which you can raise an appeal with our Pennsylvania criminal appeals attorneys. We will discuss some of the grounds that may be relevant to your claims in this section below.

Brady Violations

A Brady violation is when the prosecution withholds evidence that would show that the defendant is innocent. Brady violations derive their name from the U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, which determined that withholding exculpatory evidence violates a defendant’s due process. If you suspect that prosecutors withheld evidence that tends to show you are innocent just to get another conviction under their belt, you absolutely should appeal your case to a higher court.

Failure to Suppress or Bar Evidence

Some evidence is not allowed in court cases because it is not relevant, is unfairly prejudicial to one side of the case, or it was seized illegally. Judges and prosecutors are supposed to not allow this evidence to be seen by the jury. If they do, you can raise that issue on appeal.

Failure to Prove a Crime

If your conduct does not meet the definition of the crime you are being charged with and you are convicted anyway, that is an issue you can raise on appeal.

Incorrect Jury Instructions

During your trial, the judge tells the jury the relevant parts of the law they need to know to effectively do their job. Jury instructions can often make or break a case and are fought over by prosecutors and defense attorneys frequently. If improper jury instructions are given in your case, you can raise that issue on appeal.

Prosecutorial Misconduct

Besides withholding key pieces of evidence, there are other ways that prosecutors can run afoul of the legal system. If the prosecutor says things they are not supposed to the jury, ignores the directions of the judge, or otherwise acts in an improper way, you can appeal the outcome of their case on those grounds.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Another reason that you can appeal your conviction is because of ineffective assistance of counsel. The legal system heavily relies on legal professionals to do a great deal of work. The outcome of a client’s situation can change significantly depending on whether they have an effective lawyer or not. If a lawyer represents their client poorly, it can lead to a bad outcome, and that client has the right to appeal on the grounds that their lawyer did not live up to the professional standard expected of them.

Excessive Sentencing

Sometimes, a judge may give a sentence that is beyond what is reasonable for the defendant’s conduct. If a court issues a sentence that is well above what would be expected from sentencing guidelines, you can file an appeal to try and mitigate that excessive sentence.

What Happens When You Appeal a Criminal Conviction in Pennsylvania

An entire legal process is set in motion when you file an appeal. First, an appeals judge agrees to hear the case, and a record is made of everything that happened at the trial. Second, both the prosecutor and our attorneys will file briefs – formal written arguments – to the judge supporting why the judge should reverse or uphold the lower court’s ruling. Third, the judge may hear oral arguments from the attorneys if they deem it necessary. Finally, the judge will put out an opinion detailing their decision and the legal support for it. A number of outcomes could happen depending on how the judge rules. The outcome of your case could stay the same or be reversed, and the appeals judge could order a new trial at the lower court, which our attorneys would be happy to assist you with.

How Long Do I Have to File My Appeal in Pennsylvania?

There is a very short timeframe available for you have to file your criminal appeal. Upon conviction, you have only ten days to file a notice of appeal with the court. Once that motion is filed, you have a further 30 days to file your motion to appeal. A late filing will make it impossible for you to appeal your claim. Because the timetable is so short, you should contact our lawyers right away so that you do not miss your opportunity to appeal.

Discuss Your Case with Our Team of Pennsylvania Criminal Appeals Attorneys Today

The Law Offices of Lloyd Long can be reached at (215) 302-0171 to have our Northeast Philadelphia criminal appeals attorneys look at your claim.