Criminal defendants often want to know what their appeal rights are after a jury trial in Philadelphia. Below is a discussion of some of the most common appeal claims in criminal cases. It is important to note that criminal appeals are very complex. The procedural rules which govern when and how appeals are filed can be confusing. Also, it is crucial to have the case reviewed by an experienced criminal appeals attorney, especially someone with significant trial experience. Success of an appeal often depends on identifying errors made during trial.
Legal Appeal Issues
- Sufficiency of the Evidence
Criminal appeals often challenge the sufficiency of the evidence. Under Pennsylvania criminal law, the appeals court will review the case and apply the following standard:
Whether, viewing all the trial evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict winner, there is sufficient evidence to enable the fact-finder (i.e., jury) to find every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Challenging a Sentence (Illegality or Other Issue)
In some instances, a sentence will be illegal or there may be some issue with a court’s sentence. In Pennsylvania, there have been significant changes to sentencing laws, especially in drug and gun cases. Many mandatory minimum sentences have been vacated due to recent changes in constitutional laws. Therefore, an appeal may raise this issue and seek to have a sentence adjusted.
Appeal Issues Based on Trial Errors
- Challenges to Jury Instructions
At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial judge reads instructions to the jury. These instructions are very specific and relate to every aspect of the trial. The prosecutor and defense attorney suggest which jury instructions should be read, and there may be disagreements about the instructions. For example, the defendant’s attorney may request a specific instruction, and if the judge declines, there may be an appealable issue. However, the issue must be preserved for appeal, i.e., the criminal trial attorney must make an objection on the record.
- Challenges to Trial Rulings (i.e., Evidentiary Rulings)
In any criminal trial, the trial judge will make rulings on the admissibility of evidence, which includes physical, tangible evidence and testimony of witnesses. Motions for admissibility or exclusion of evidence may be made prior to the start of trial or during trial. Ultimately, evidence that is allowed at trial often determines the outcome of the case. There is an entire set of rules which governs the admissibility of evidence in criminal trials. Judges often make errors when applying these rules of evidence. When an error affects the outcome of the trial, the defendant may appeal that error to a higher court assuming the issue was preserved for appeal.
- Challenges to Other Rulings (i.e., Suppression Motions)
In many criminal cases, there may be pretrial motions to suppress evidence due to constitutional violations. For example, in a drug case, there may be a valid search and seizure issue, i.e., 4th Amendment constitutional violation. If the defendant’s motion to suppress is denied, the case may be appealed.
Help with a Criminal Trial Appeal in Philadelphia
If you or a loved one was convicted after a criminal trial and would like to appeal, please contact our office for a case assessment. David Nenner has been handling criminal cases for nearly 30 years. (215) 564-0644
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