Philadelphia Criminal Law News

What is the Criminal Appeals Process?

Even if you've been convicted of a crime, this does not necessarily mean your case is done. Instead, in some cases, you may be able to appeal to a higher court and have your conviction overturned.

The following are the basics of the criminal appeals process.

Generally, with an appeal, you are asking a higher court to review certain aspects of your criminal trial for legal error. Your criminal case is usually first heard in the Courts of Common Pleas and so you will appeal your case to the Superior Court.

In your appeal, you are asking the Superior Court to review or overturn your conviction and sentencing based on legal error. What this means is that you are arguing that key mistakes were made in your trial which affected the jury's decision. Critical errors can include the improper introduction of evidence, a biased judge, a complete misreading of the law, or any other major mistake.

When considering the appeal, the higher court will generally only look at the record of the lower court, so you will not have a completely new trial and will not be able to introduce new evidence. Instead, the Superior Court will look at the transcripts of the original hearing, the evidence presented at that hearing, and the legal briefs filed with the appeal to argue why the decision should be overturned.

The criminal appeals process can be long and cumbersome. But if you think the lower court made a critical error in your case, you may want to contact an attorney and file an appeal. Keep in mind there are tight deadlines for filing an appeal. Should you miss those deadlines, your case may be lost regardless of the merits of your appeal.

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