Being convicted of a crime is a daunting experience that may leave you feeling hopeless. The good news is that you don't have to accept this verdict as final. If you believe that you deserve a shot at a new trial, with the help of an experienced appellate attorney, you can overturn your conviction and seek different judgment at a new trial through the filing of an appeal.
Filing an appeal in Chester County is a lengthy and monotonous process. For the purposes of this article, we'll explain what to expect when involved in the county's criminal appeals process.
Filing an Appeal in Chester County
Firstly, the right to appeal is only afforded to defendants who pleaded “not guilty” in the original trial. Guilty pleas require a motion to withdraw a plea before an appeal can be filed.
It is recommended that all defendants go through this process with the help of an experienced attorney who is familiar with the way Chester County operates. Without representation, you run the risk of missing important deadlines, leaving out crucial details, and making other serious mistakes that can jeopardize your chances of getting a new hearing.
In order for an appeal to be granted, it must be based on sufficient legal grounds. In other words, you must have a good reason for wanting to appeal a trial verdict. Mere dissatisfaction isn't enough. Some common legal grounds for appealing include:
- Plain error: a procedural error was made at some point during the criminal prosecution process that affected your rights.
- Lack of sufficient evidence: the evidence provided in a trial didn't reach the “beyond a reasonable doubt” evidentiary standard.
- Inadmissible evidence: The evidence for a trial was collected illegally or does not follow the established rules of evidence upheld by the court.
These grounds will be incorporated into the notice of appeal and sent to the Chester Court of Common Pleas. Your attorney will likely take care of this step for you.
Time Limit and Fees
In Chester County, you have 30 days within the date a Magisterial District Court Judge made a judgment. In the event that the 30th day falls on a weekend or holiday, you have until the next weekday to file the notice of appeal. The county requires a non-refundable $50 fee for filing.
Within the next few weeks, you should receive what's known as a “criminal docketing statements” and other documents to fill out. This is the most tedious and dull part of the process, but it's important that you meet all submission deadlines and don't make mistakes. Soon after these documents have been submitted and processed, the oral arguments will commence.
Oral arguments are a short part of the appeals process. They will be held before a judge. Based on your appeal, the judge will make one of three decisions: to modify, affirm, or vacate your appeal. The term “affirm” is misleading because it sounds positive, but it actually means that the judge ruled against you and affirmed the original court's ruling. If “vacate” is chosen, it means the judge ruled in your favor and you'll be granted a new trial. If “modify” is chosen, this means the judge partially supports the original ruling and has vouched to change parts of it if need be.
New appeal hearings will begin at an intermediate level Pennsylvania court, but if you lose there, there are higher courts like the Superior Court of Pennsylvania or Supreme Court of Pennsylvania that you can appeal to. If you win, your case may be dismissed or you'll be given a reduced sentence, or the prosecutor can choose to appeal this decision to a higher court for a new ruling.
Chester County Appellate Attorney
For a more detailed and personalized account of the Chester County appeals process, you should contact skilled and experienced appellate attorney Joseph D. Lento. He can help you evaluate whether an appeal is an ideal option for you. He's helped many of his clients successfully overturn their convictions and win their new trials. Contact him today online or by phone at (215) 535-5353.