Appeals: How They Work

court of appeals

Were you unjustly convicted of a crime or wrongly sentenced? Appealing to a higher court may be something to consider.  The deadline for filing an appeal is crucial and can vary.  Therefore, if you are considering an appeal, you need to consult with a lawyer immediately.

 

What is an Appeal?

 

An appeal in a criminal case is when you apply to a higher court, an appeals court, to review a certain aspect of your case because the following circumstances may apply:

 

  • Your sentence was too harsh
  • The trial court misapplied the law
  • The evidence at trial did not justify a conviction

 

In Pennsylvania, a defendant has a right to appeal a trial a court decision.  In most instances, the court of appeal for criminal trial courts are submitted to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.  After an appeal is filed, the Superior Court issues a briefing schedule and sets a date and time for a hearing.   At that hearing, defense counsel argues why the trial court’s decision was wrong while the Commonwealth argues why the trial court was correct. An appeal is typically heard by a panel of 3 Superior Court justices.   However, there are instances when an appeal will be heard by more. The justices can uphold the trial court, reverse it or send it back to the trial court for more fact finding.  Appeals from Superior Court decisions can be made to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court but there is no automatic right to do so.

 

In the end, most appeals lose.  The likelihood of success is important and should be evaluated carefully by anyone considering an appeal.