Despite your efforts at building a solid defense strategy to fight the charges against you, a jury convicted you. This turn of events may feel devastating, but it is not necessarily the end of the story. Your case may qualify for the appellate court, and you have every right to pursue that possibility.
Appealing a verdict means taking your case to a higher court, but it does not mean re-trying your case, calling new witnesses or presenting new evidence. An appeal focuses on the original case and any mistakes that may have had a negative effect on the outcome. Because the appeals process is quite different from a criminal trial, you would be wise to seek the guidance of an attorney who has extensive experience in this realm of law.
The plan for the possibility of an appeal often begins from the moment a trial opens. You and your attorney were likely alert for any errors that harmed your chances of success. Every trial has mistakes, and some mistakes are harmless to you. However, you may have grounds for an appeal if any of the following happened in your trial:
- Plain errors: These are mistakes that harm the fairness of the trial. The judge can correct these kinds of errors as they occur if your attorney objects to them.
- Abuse of discretion: Every judge has a certain amount of leeway to make rulings. When these rulings satisfy the judge’s or other local prejudices to your detriment, you may have grounds for an appeal.
- Inadequate representation: You may feel your trial attorney did not provide effective counsel, which led to your negative outcome.
- Not enough evidence: Evidence that a judge allowed when it should have been excluded may unfairly prejudice your case. Additionally, you may feel the weight of the evidence should have led to a different verdict.
An appellate court does not hear witness testimony. The panel of judges has access to trial transcripts, the physical evidence and the brief your appeals attorney submits. Because of these limitations, you will want to be certain you have every possible advantage before beginning the appellate process.
Most Pennsylvania and federal higher courts prefer to uphold the findings of a lower court, so your case must be as solid as possible. One way to improve your chances of meeting your goal is to enlist the services of a skilled attorney experienced in the complex appeals process.