Defendants who are found guilty in the Criminal Division of Philadelphia Municipal Court can appeal their convictions and sentence to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas - Criminal Division.
All appeals from Philadelphia Municipal Court are from the judgment of sentence. There are two kinds of appeals from Municipal Court convictions and both must be filed in writing and must be filed within 30 days from the Municipal Court judgment of sentence. Both appeals are only from the criminal charge(s) which the defendant was convicted.
What is a "de novo" appeal in Philadelphia Municipal Court?
In a de novo appeal, the defendant will receive a brand new trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas - Criminal Division and the defendant will have the right to a jury trial. Since it is a brand new trial, the defendant can be found guilty or not guilty. ("de novo" is from the Latin, meaning “from the new" - when a court hears a case de novo, it is deciding the issues without reference to the legal conclusions or assumptions made by the previous court to hear the case).
If the defendant is found guilty, the defendant can receive the same sentence, a lesser sentence, or a greater sentence than the defendant received at the Philadelphia Municipal Court trial.
What is a "writ of certiorari" appeal in Philadelphia Municipal Court?
In a writ of certiorari appeal, the defendant's criminal defense attorney files a written motion with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas - Criminal Division alleging legal error in the Philadelphia Municipal Court trial or sentencing and seeks relief. (A writ is an order issued by a legal authority with administrative or juridicial powers, typically a court. A "writ of certiorari" is a type of writ. meant for rare use, by which an appellate court decides to review a case at its discretion. The word "certiorari" comes from Latin and means "to be more fully informed." A writ of certiorari orders a lower court to deliver its record in a case so that the higher court may review the record.)
The defendant does not get a new trial but instead receives a review of the record of the Philadelphia Municipal Court pre-trial and/or trial proceedings by the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Motions judge (who sits in courtroom 805 of the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center; also known as the "CJC") . If the Common Pleas Court Motions judge agrees there was legal error in the Municipal Court proceedings, relief is ordered usually in the form of either a discharge, new Municipal Court trial without the suppressed or inadmissible evidence, or a new sentencing proceeding.
Since the defendant who appeals by way of writ of certiorari does not receive a new trial but only a record "review," the defendant does not run the risk of an increased sentence should the writ of certiorari be denied. Unlike the de novo appeal (as explained above), a writ of certiorari does not "stay" the Philadelphia Municipal Court judgment of conviction and sentence. (A stay is a suspension of a case or a suspension of a particular proceeding within a case.) A defendant appealing by way of writ of certiorari who wishes a stay of sentence pending disposition of the writ must file a separate stay order with either the Municipal Court trial judge or Common Pleas Motions judge.