Immediately following an arrest, defendants are hurled into the complex criminal justice system to navigate at the trial level. If convicted, this process ends, and sometimes a new one, referred to as the criminal appeals process, commences. The criminal appeals process doesn't even vaguely resemble what occurred during trial. It's an entirely new procedure that requires the assistance and guidance of a criminal appeals attorney.
The request for an appeal is a right that defendants should utilize when they or their representation can establish that there may have been legal errors made throughout the course of the trial process. It is essentially a request for a higher court - the Pennsylvania Superior or Supreme Court - to review certain aspects of a defendant's case with hopes of reversing the conviction or the sentence imposed.
If you and your representation are contemplating an appeal, it's important that you understand the basics of the intricate, and oftentimes arduous, appellate process. For the purposes of this article, we will provide you with a brief overview of Pennsylvania's criminal appeal process.
In the majority of criminal cases, an appeal cannot be requested or taken until sentencing has ensued. It is only after sentencing that a notice of appeal must be filed. However, defendants must file according to the deadlines upheld by the higher courts. When appealing to the Pennsylvania Superior Court or the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, this notice must be filed within 30 days of sentencing.
In certain cases, it isn't appropriate to file a notice of appeal immediately following a sentence. It may be necessary to file a post-sentence motion first. In order to sufficiently establish certain grounds of an appeal, it is required for a claim to first be presented to a trial court. This is when post-sentence motions come in handy. These motions are to be filed within 10 days of a sentencing date, and the trial court will have a timeframe of 120 days to make a decision pertaining to this motion. A motion is automatically denied if a decision is not made in the allotted time. If there is a denial, a notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of that decision.
Statement of Errors
Once a notice is filed, the trial court will order a defendant's attorney to file a document detailing the issues that are to be raised in an appeal. This document, called a “Statement of Errors Complained of on Appeal” should be filed, within 21 days. From then on, the trial court will be responsible for drafting an opinion addressing why it ruled the way it did. This is known as a “Rule 1925 opinion.”
After the opinion is written, it will be transported to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. This opinion will order that the appellant file is brief and generated within approximately 40 days of the order.
Superior Court Review
When a case is submitted for consideration by the Superior Court, a decision can be made within a few days or a few months, it depends on the case. Based on the submitted appeal, the three-judge panel will vote on a decision and majority will rule.
Supreme Court Review (If Necessary)
The party who loses an appeal in the Superior Court has one last effort to overturn their conviction. Defendants can request that Pennsylvania's highest court, the Supreme Court, review their case. This request is typically made in a motion detailing why the Superior Court's panel decided wrong.
Pennsylvania Criminal Appeals Attorney
Pennsylvania's appeal process can be complex and lengthy. In order to secure a fighting chance to get your conviction overturned or a sentence reduced, retaining a criminal appeals attorney is a must. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience helping clients in this predicament prevail in the appellate process, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today for assistance.