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Understanding the appeals process

If a Pennsylvania resident or any other American receives an unfavorable ruling in a criminal case, it may be appealed. The number of appeals that can be made depends on how many courts are higher than the one a case is currently being heard in. Depending on where the case is being heard, a defendant may have as many as four opportunities at the state level for a ruling to be overturned.

However, a defendant does have to meet certain criteria for an appeal to be heard. A notice of appeal must generally be sent to the court that made the decision within 10 days. The clock generally starts from the date of a court's final decision. An attorney may file this document, and an attorney may also need to file an appellate brief. The notice of appeal is generally a shorter document while the appellate brief is longer with citations from the trial transcript.

If a person is convicted on criminal charges, there is a possibility that this individual may be sentenced to jail time. Probation or community service may also be included in a sentence or substituted for jail or prison time. In addition to possible criminal penalties, an individual may have trouble finding work or going to school while having a criminal record.

Therefore, it may be a good idea to talk with an attorney about the appeals process. If an appellate court finds in favor of a defendant, charges may be dropped, or a new criminal trial ordered. Appeals may be made because evidence was withheld during a trial, a witness admitted to falsifying testimony or because the judge may a ruling an attorney believes was not correct or proper. Typically, an appeal may only be made to the same court once.

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