Dec 122016

Criminal cases in Pennsylvania, especially those involving appeals or Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petitions, are very complex. There are time deadlines what must be compiled with. An appeal or petition filed too late will almost certainly be dismissed.

There are two deadlines which apply to any criminal conviction in Philadelphia. For a direct appeal, a criminal defendant has 30 days after the conviction is entered (i.e., the sentencing order is entered by the court clerk). For a PCRA petition, a criminal defendant has 1 year from the date the judgement being complained of is entered. These time limits are pretty stringent and have VERY limited exceptions. Therefore, in the vast majority of cases, filing the appeal or petition after the deadline means the case gets dismissed.

That’s why it is critical to have an experienced and knowledgeable criminal lawyer meet with you, review the case and trial transcripts, if necessary, to determine whether you have a valid appeal or PCRA petition.

It’s important to note that in some cases, a post-sentence motion may be filed. This is not the same as an appeal or a PCRA petition. A post-sentence motion in a criminal case in PA raises issues such as legal challenges to a guilty plea or asks a court to modify a sentence. However, the time deadline is much shorter–10 days from the date the sentencing order is entered.

Appeals and PCRA petitions are different in terms of approach, legal issues and procedure. In terms of grounds or legal issues which can be raised, the most successful appeals raise an issue related to a judicial ruling at trial or some irregularity at trial that had an effect on the outcome. For example, a successful criminal appeal in a drug case might argue that the trial judge failed to suppress evidence or made a mistake in ruling on the admissibility of evidence at trial.

In terms of grounds of appeal in PCRA petitions, the most successful cases raise issues related to ineffective assistance of counsel, which will be discussed below. Click the link for a discussion about the differences between a criminal appeal and a PCRA petition.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel (IAC)

Ineffective assistance of counsel claims are one of the most common claims raised in PCRA petitions in Philadelphia. The 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a reasonably competent lawyer. An individual who was convicted of a crime because his or her lawyer who was ineffective may be able to get relief, i.e., a hearing, by proving that the lawyer made a mistake and that the mistake had a negative impact on the outcome of the case, i.e., conviction. In other words, there must be evidence that the criminal lawyer’s mistake actually affected the outcome.

The most probable outcome of a PCRA petition is an evidentiary hearing where the court heard evidence on the claim and then makes a decision on whether further action should be taken, such as a new trial or new sentencing hearing.

Get a Legal Review of Your Philadelphia Criminal Appeal or PCRA Petition

Contact our legal team for a free consultation in your criminal case. Attorney David Nenner has handled countless criminal defense cases, including PCRA petitions and direct appeals. Time is of the essence. Act now.  (215) 564-0644

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