If you or someone close to you has been wrongly convicted or unfairly sentenced, you need to get a competent appellate lawyer on your side – fast
Once a person has been convicted and sentenced for a crime in Pennsylvania, he or she has an absolute constitutional right to appeal to a higher court. This is known as a direct appeal. A direct appeal is one of only two ways a convicted person may challenge their convictions and sentences in state court and important rights may be lost forever if the direct appeal process is not handled promptly, competently and passionately.
It is important to understand that the appellate process is not the same as getting a new trial. Appellate courts do not allow individuals on direct appeal to retry the facts of their case, or to offer new evidence. Rather, appellate courts exist to determine whether legal errors occurred during the pre-trial, trial and sentencing phases of the case and whether those errors led to an unjust conviction or sentence.
Some of the issues that may be raised on direct appeal include:
- Whether the evidence was legally sufficient to support the guilty verdict
- Whether the trial judge improperly prevented the defendant from presenting evidence that would have been helpful to his or her case or inappropriately allowed the government to admit prejudicial evidence against the defendant
- Whether the trial judge made the correct legal rulings on pre-trial motions such as motions to suppress physical evidence, motions to suppress statements made to the police, motions for a speedy trial, motions in limine, and motions to sever charges or cases
- Whether the trial judge properly instructed the jury
- Whether the defendant was deprived of his or her constitutional right to a fair trial, to due process of law, and to confront the witnesses against him or her
- Whether the prosecutor engaged in misconduct
- Whether the sentence imposed was excessive, unfair or illegal
The appellate process has important and non-negotiable deadlines that must be met in order to preserve this right to appeal. Additionally, appellate procedure is complicated and nuanced. In fact, it is often difficult even for experienced trial practitioners to navigate the appellate process. Accordingly, if you or someone close to you has been wrongly convicted or unfairly sentenced, it is absolutely essential to get our experienced and knowledgeable appellate team involved in your case immediately.
Pennsylvania’s Post Conviction Relief Act provides the last avenue of relief in state court for convicted individuals
If you, a friend or a family member has been unsuccessful on direct appeal, Pennsylvania law provides for one last means of obtaining relief. Pennsylvania’s Post Conviction Relief Act, under Title 42, allows a convicted individual to collaterally attack their conviction by demonstrating that their conviction or sentence resulted from one or more of the following:
- A violation of Pennsylvania’s Constitution, the Federal Constitution, or the laws of the United States
- Ineffective assistance of counsel
- A plea of guilty unlawfully induced where the circumstances make it likely that the inducement caused the petitioner to plead guilty and the petitioner is innocent
- The improper obstruction by government officials of the petitioner’s right of appeal where a meritorious appealable issue existed and was properly preserved in the trial court
- The unavailability at the time of trial of exculpatory evidence that has subsequently become available and would have changed the outcome of the trial if it had been introduced, also known as “newly-discovered” or “after-discovered” evidence
- The imposition of a sentence greater than the lawful maximum
- A proceeding in a tribunal without jurisdiction.
The procedures governing post-conviction practice are even more convoluted than those that govern the direct appeal process. As well, the Post Conviction Relief Act imposes stringent timeliness and eligibility-for-relief requirements, which, if left in the hands of an unskilled and inexperienced attorney, may stand in the way of you getting the relief you deserve.
Speak with our experienced, knowledgeable and passionate appellate and post-conviction team now
Difenderfer Rothman & Haber has established a robust appellate and post-conviction practice led by Attorney Stephanie M. Noel, who has handled countless cases ranging in seriousness from disorderly conduct to first-degree murder in both of Pennsylvania’s appellate courts. Our efforts have resulted in clients receiving new trials, reductions in their sentences, reinstatement of important rights, and outright reversals of their criminal convictions.