If you've been found guilty for a crime in Montgomery County, you don't have to accept this verdict as final. You can potentially overturn your conviction and get a new trial by appealing.
An appeal is a request for a higher court to reassess the procedure or decisions of a lower court. To properly file an appeal and obtain a new hearing, you have to go through the county's long and drawn out appeals process.
Filing an Appeal in Montgomery County
An appeal must be based on grounds, or good reason for it be successful. Some common legal grounds for overturning a conviction include:
- Inadmissible evidence: the evidence for a trial was collected illegally or does not follow the established rules for evidence upheld by the court.
- Lack of sufficient evidence: the evidence provided in a trial didn't reach the trial evidentiary standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
- Plain error: a procedural error was made at some point during the criminal prosecution process that affected your rights.
An attorney will list any applicable legal grounds in the notice of appeal. It will be sent to the Montgomery County Clerk of Common Pleas for submission.
Time Limit and Fees
In Delaware County, a notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the original court decision. If the last day falls on a weekend or holiday, you have until the next business day to file this notice. The county charges an approximate $150-$300 non-refundable fee for filing.
After paying the appropriate fees and officially filing, you'll receive what's referred to as a “criminal docketing statement” and other paperwork to complete. This part of the process is very dull and monotonous, but you can't drop the ball. Your goal should be to make sure you meet all the submission deadlines and don't make mistakes in these legal documents. Consult with an attorney for more personal information about your particular case. Soon after all statement and other documents have been submitted and processed, the oral arguments will begin.
Oral arguments are the most important part of the Montgomery County appeals process. Based on your appeal brief a judge will make one of three decisions: to modify, affirm, or vacate your appeal.
If an appeal is modified, this means that the judge partially supports the ruling and will revise parts of it. The option “affirm” sounds good, but it's misleading. A judge who chooses this option affirms the original court's ruling and has ruled against you. The “vacate” option is your ideal choice. This means that a judge has validated the concerns in your appeal, ruled in your favor and that you'll be set for a new trial.
Appellate hearing from the Pennsylvania Magisterial District Court level will always begin at the Montgomery Court of Common Pleas. But if you lose here, you still have other options. You can appeal to higher courts like the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, or even the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (if you're granted the right to pursue an appeal further). If your appeal is granted at either one of these levels, you'll either be given a reduced sentence, and the best case scenario is that your case will be dismissed. It's important to remember that the prosecution also has the option to appeal these decisions to the higher court for a new ruling, so that's another possibility.
Montgomery County Appellate Attorney
For a more detailed and personalized account of the Montgomery 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.