- Practice Areas
- Contact Us
- Free Consultation
Those who are charged with criminal offenses go through a great amount of stress. They often feel upset that their case was not dismissed or did not result in a “not guilty” conviction. After the initial shock of the conviction wears off, many are left wondering if the decision can be appealed.
Though there are some reasons why an appeal may be needed, not all appeal are successful or in the defendant’s best interest. Below are four facts about the appeals process.
1. There has to be a legitimate reason for an appeal
Just because a case ended in a guilty conviction, does not mean that an appeal will be successful. Generally, appeals are allowed in cases where there is some reason that the lower court (the court where the original guilty conviction was given) might have made a mistake.
Appeals can also occur if there is some new evidence available that could change the outcome of the case.
There are a few mistakes that could lead to an appeal, such as the judge accepting a bribe to find the defendant guilty. Another example is if the jury was approached by the prosecuting attorney during the trial and convinced them to find the defendant guilty. Or if the judge made a mistake about the law, for example, if the judge refused to follow a new law or ignored a part of the law, there would be room for an appeal.
An appeal may also be taken when the judge allowed evidence to be considered that should have been suppressed or incorrectly decided a pre-trial motion. Defendants can also appeal their sentence if they believe that the judge abused their discretion or considered something that should not have been considered during the sentencing hearing.
New evidence is another legitimate reason for an appeal, but this is a different type of appeal called a PCRA petition (Post-Conviction Relief Act). One example is if a murder conviction was based on circumstantial evidence only, and after the trial, the murder weapon was found with DNA that did not match the defendant.
There must be a concrete reason based on specific law or facts in order to get an appeal granted.
For a free legal consultation, call 215-515-3360
2. An appeal is not guaranteed to be granted
Even if a lawyer reviews the case and believes there is a reason for an appeal, it doesn’t mean that the appeal will be successful.
In order to get an appeal, the lawyer must file a notice of appeal and then a statement outlining what errors happened during the trial.
The appeal is not a redo of a trial. The appeal is decided on the facts that are already in the record from the trial court. The standards for overturning a conviction are very high and require a skilled appellate attorney.
3. Death penalty cases are automatically appealed
Because the death penalty is the most serious punishment an individual can receive, cases in which the death penalty was given as a punishment are always allowed to be appealed. The appeals process for death penalty cases go all the way to the highest court in the state.
Pennsylvania has only executed three individuals since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, so this is a rare, but serious scenario.
4. An appellate hearing is not the same as a trial
When a case is appealed, it does not mean that the trial happens over again. The appeals process is more formal, and it does not require that any witnesses appear. The defendant also does not need to be present during the hearing.
Most of the appeals process is done through briefs, which are written arguments that are submitted to the court from both the prosecuting and defending attorneys. Each attorney files a brief explaining their position, and the appeals judges review the submissions and bases their decision on the attorneys’ arguments.
In some cases, there is a hearing. Unlike the trial, there is no jury present during the appeals hearing, and there are no witnesses or evidence presented. The attorneys for each side simply present an oral argument in front of a panel of judges. The judges release their decision regarding the case sometime after the hearing has occurred.
Contact the The Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC today!
Each case is unique, and there is no guarantee that a case is able to be successfully appealed or if an appeal is in the best interest of the defendant. If you or a loved one has received a guilty sentence in a recent trial, time is of the essence. There is only a limited window of time after the sentence has been determined in which an appeal can be filed.
Contact the The Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC today so that we may begin working on your appeal strategy. Call us at 215-515-3360 for your free consultation!