Two people discussing criminal appeals process

Understanding the Criminal Appeals Process

Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. June 15, 2021

According to a Caseload Statistics Report from the Pennsylvania Court System, 154,656 new criminal appeals were filed in the Courts of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania in 2019. In Pennsylvania, the Courts of Common Pleas hear appeals in civil and criminal cases from the minor courts, while the Supreme Court hears direct appeals from lower court decisions. Through this process, legal errors made in a minor court can be resolved or overturned. If you have reasons to believe that you were wrongfully or unfairly convicted or sentenced, retaining a skilled Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney is paramount to handle your appeal.

At Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C., I'm dedicated to providing comprehensive legal guidance and vigorous representation to clients who were wrongly convicted. As your legal counsel, I can review the existing evidence, investigate the judge's conduct, and help seek a different judgment or a new trial. Using my experience, I will fight diligently to defend your appeal rights and attempt to get your conviction overturned. My firm proudly represents clients throughout Pittsburgh, Fox Chapel, Shaler Township, Oakmont Borough, and Aspinwall, Pennsylvania.

Valid Reasons to Appeal

When a person is facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania, a trial in a minor court is often used to dispense justice fairly and equitably. In certain situations, however, the jury or judge can make a costly legal error that may affect the outcome of the case and lead to a wrongful conviction. Here are some valid reasons to appeal a sentence here in Pennsylvania:

  • Improper admission or exclusion of evidence

  • Lack of substantial evidence to support the verdict

  • Suppression of evidence or statements

  • Sentencing errors or an excessive sentence

  • Incorrect instructions from the judge or jury

  • Miscarriage of justice

  • Ineffective assistance of counsel

  • Legal errors from the minor court or judge

  • Juror misconduct

  • Obvious mistakes during the trial

Filing an Appeal

If you have been convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania, you're within your constitutional rights to file an appeal for your case. It is important to note, however, that an appeal is not an opportunity to challenge a jury's decision. The purpose of the appeal is to provide a limited review of the existing evidence, court proceedings, and judicial rulings of the minor court. With this, the Supreme Court or Courts of Common Pleas can determine whether the minor court or presiding judge made legal mistakes that meaningfully impacted the verdict.

Direct Appeal

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court is responsible for reviewing most direct appeals. Having the Superior Court review your criminal appeals case requires filing a notice of appeal with the Court of Common Pleas where you were convicted.

During the appeal, your appellate lawyer will seek to demonstrate that the minor court made a legal error. The defendant can request any of the following:

  • A new trial

  • Resentencing

  • Total dismissal of the charges levied against you

Ensure that you file your notice of appeal within 30 days of your sentence. If not, you may lose your appeal rights.

Post-Conviction Relief

Under Pennsylvania's Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), a defendant may be able to challenge their conviction based on constitutional and statutory grounds, sometimes several years following their conviction. Regardless, you are advised to file your PCRA claims within a year from the date you lost your appeal. Should your PCRA claim be unsuccessful, you can still file a criminal appeal with the federal courts using a habeas corpus petition.

The Pennsylvania Appeals Process

Here are the steps involved in the Pennsylvania appeals process:

  • Establish legal grounds for appealing your conviction

  • File a post-sentence motion

  • File your notice of appeal with the Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas within 30 days after receiving the sentencing

  • Submit two copies of your appeal to the court clerk

  • Receive your criminal docketing statement

  • File your briefs and paperwork, including exhibits and transcripts

  • Attend oral arguments in front of the multi-judge panel

Your defense attorney can help handle all of the processes involved and file the necessary legal paperwork accurately and on time.

How an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

Being convicted of a crime can be a terrifying experience, but it doesn't necessarily mean the end of the road for you, and neither do you have to accept the guilty conviction as final. If you disagree with the minor court's findings, you are within your legal rights to file an appeal to have your conviction reviewed or corrected. An experienced Pennsylvania criminal appeals attorney can help defend your appeal rights and seek a different judgment.

At Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C., I have the experience and resources to guide and represent clients in their criminal appeals. As your legal counsel, I can review all the existing facts of your case, determine whether an appeal is right for you, and help you understand what to expect during the appeals process.

What's more, using my knowledge and understanding of Pennsylvania appeals law, I will outline an effective appeal strategy for your case and fight diligently to have your conviction reversed. Whether you were wrongfully convicted, sentenced unfairly, or took a guilty plea deal following the poor advice of a public defense counsel, I will guide you through every legal phase of the appeal process and keep fighting for your freedom.

Contact my firm today to schedule a one-on-one case assessment with a skilled criminal appeals attorney. I can offer you the comprehensive legal guidance, strong advocacy, and reliable representation you need to make important decisions. I'm proud to represent clients throughout Pittsburgh, Fox Chapel, Shaler Township, Oakmont Borough, and Aspinwall, Pennsylvania.