Many defendants believe that a guilty verdict is the end of the road. However, a conviction, facilitated by either a guilty plea or a jury trial, isn't the final decision in many cases. Unfortunately, it's been proven that an alarming number of convictions have arisen from unlawful procedures and circumstances, which could either be a violation of a defendant's constitutional rights or of the regulations of the court. In the event that a conviction is wrongful, it should be overturned.
Defendants and their representation are granted the right to file an appeal if they believe that a conviction is unjustified, or disproportionate to the crime committed. An appeal is essentially a request for a higher court to review a decision made by a lower court. With the help of a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney, you can submit an appeal in an attempt to avoid unwarranted criminal penalties, strike the conviction from your record, and put this situation behind you.
Grounds For An Appeal in Pennsylvania
There are many different misconceptions about appeals. Some assume that the appellate process is the time to introduce new evidence to support an innocent claim, while others believe that an apparent mistake made by a lower court guarantees that a defendant will be off the hook. Regardless of all the misinformation surrounding this process, it's important you understand the appeals system isn't black and white, and many times they will be difficult to understand.
One definite aspect of the appeals process is that the appellate court will not overturn a conviction based on new evidence. A decision to either appeal or not to appeal a conviction boils down to the court's ability to evaluate and establish one of three grounds listed in an appeal request:
The verdict was not supported by the weight of the evidence presented at trial
You may be able to appeal your conviction if the verdict is unreasonable given the evidence presented. Challenging a conviction on this ground requires an understanding that the evidence presented in your trial was too weak for reasonable jurors to find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The lower court made a plain error of law
You also may appeal your conviction if there were errors made by a lower court in a trial. Some examples of plain errors of law are a wrongful admission of evidence, a wrong interpretation of the law, or a misdirection to the jury.
It's important to note that an error must be substantial for an appeal to be considered. If a higher court finds that even without the error the verdict would have remained the same, an appeal may not be allowed.
There was a miscarriage of justice
If there was appears to be an error in fact and in law, a higher court may deem your conviction a miscarriage of justice, and consequently, overturn it. The existence of a biased jury or judge is an example of a miscarriage of justice.
Pennsylvania Criminal Appeals Attorney
If you believe that you have been wrongfully convicted or sentenced for any reason, you should consult with an experienced criminal appeals attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento will be able to present you with different appeal options and identify possible grounds for an appeal in your respective case. Contact him today for help.