Lost a Criminal Trial in Philadelphia? What to Know About Pennsylvania’s Post-trial (Criminal) Procedures

Philadelphia criminal cases often result in trials; that’s due to a relatively low conviction rate for the local District Attorney’s office. Philadelphia has one of the lowest conviction rates in the country. This means that many residents of Philadelphia who are facing criminal charges will take their chances with a trial. But what happens if you lose at trial?

This article will discuss post-sentence procedures which allow a person convicted of a crime in Philadelphia to challenge the court’s sentence.

Related: PA Criminal Appeals Law, Filing a Direct Appeal After a Trial


Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure, Post-Trial Procedures, Rule 720, lays out the procedure for filing post-sentence motions.

Section (B) provides the grounds or claims which may be raised in any post-sentence motions:

  • challenging the validity of a guilty plea or no contest plea,
  • challenging a trial court’s denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal,
  • requesting a new trial, or
  • modifying a sentence.

As a general rule, post-sentence motions are successful when crafted carefully by an experienced criminal trial/appeals lawyer. Trial courts will not simply entertain and rehash issues which were resolved at trial. Rather, trial courts are more inclined to take post-sentence motions seriously when they involve a grave error such as an illegal sentence, or one that is not allowed under Pennsylvania law. In addition, post-sentence motions are more likely to succeed if they involve new case law, new evidence, or new circumstances.

It is important to note that ineffective assistance of counsel claims are not appropriate for post-sentence motions. Read about filing ineffective assistance of counsel claims in PCRA (Post Conviction Relief Act) petitions.


Subsection (C) allows a defendant to file a post-sentence motion for a new trial based on the discovery of after-discovered evidence (i.e., evidence which was not discovered despite due diligence until after trial). Subsection (C) provides:

A post-sentence motion for a new trial on the ground of after-discovered evidence must be filed in writing promptly after such discovery.

Per the rule, any new evidence which is uncovered during the post-sentencing phase must be raised with the trial court.


Rule 720 only gives defendants a short window of time within which to file a post-sentence motion, and that is 10 days from the imposition of the sentence, which is basically the date of the sentencing order.

The 10 day window does not apply to post-sentence motions based on after-discovered evidence. Subsection (C) does not provide any specific time limit and only requires that claims of after-discovered evidence be raised “promptly.” Therefore, after-discovered evidence uncovered during the post-sentence stage must be raised with the trial judge. After-discovered evidenceuncovered during the direct appeal process must be raised during the appeal process, and after-discovered evidence uncovered during the PCRA period must be raised in a PCRA petition.

It is important to note that filing a post-sentence motion stalls the time to file an appeal. If a defendant does not file a post-sentence motion, the standard 30 day time limit applies. If a defendant does file a post-sentence motion, the 30 day window is stalled, depending on what happens to the post-sentence motion. For instance, if a trial court denies a post-sentence motion, the clock starts ticking on the 30 day window for filing an appeal on the date the order denying the post-sentence motion is entered.


Our criminal lawyers handle appeals in Philadelphia. For a free consultation, please call our office at (215) 515-0042.

Disclaimer: This website does not create any attorney-client relationship or provide legal advice. Our lawyers provide legal advice only after accepting a case. It is imperative that any action taken is done on advice of counsel. Read full disclaimer below.

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