People in Pennsylvania who have been convicted of a crime or who have pled guilty to a crime may file an appeal to have their guilty verdict or plea reversed. Appeals are most the common legal mechanism with which to gain a conviction reversal. Writs may also be used. However, the factors of every case are different as are the laws in the various jurisdictions that pertain to reversing a conviction.
Trial court findings are generally upheld by appeals judges, especially if the trial decision was rendered based on findings of fact instead of matters of law. Lower court decisions are rarely overturned by courts, and while there are no guarantees of having a perfect trial, there are certain protections in place to address oversights and errors.
A guilty verdict will only be overturned on appeal if there was some error during the trial that had a substantial impact on the outcome. While the majority of errors committed at trial are deemed harmless, there are certain types of errors that are so grave that they are considered to be detrimental to the legal process. An example of these types of serious errors can include using a forced confession.
Appellate courts also hardly alter the sentences that are issued in the lower courts. However, in cases in which the law explicitly points to a specific sentence, the appellate court may have the case returned to the lower court for resentencing if the court did not adhere to the sentencing law.
An attorney who practices criminal defense law may advise clients who have been convicted of a crime of their legal options for criminal appeals. The attorney may file the necessary court documents to have the case heard by an appellate court and may advocate on behalf of clients during post-conviction hearings.