Email or Call (215) 564-0644

    PA Criminal Appeals Law – The Basics of Pennsylvania’s Post Conviction Relief Act Part 1

    Published: February 7, 2014 | Last Updated: January 6, 2016

    Many people who have been convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania want to know if they should file a Pennsylvania Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition. It is important to note that PCRA petitions are entirely separate and distinct from direct appeals. In addition, both have strict time deadlines. Therefore, if you have been convicted of a crime in PA and would like to discuss your right to appeal or file a PCRA petition, you should contact a criminal appellate lawyer immediately.

    The PCRA, which can be found at 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9541 et. seq., provides a way for people convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania to challenge their conviction or sentence. Success of a PCRA petition depends on the facts and legal issues of a given case. Since no two criminal cases are alike, the only way to determine whether a PCRA petition should be filed and whether it will be successful is to consult with a criminal appealslawyer who can make an assessment after reviewing the facts and the law.

    Below is a discussion of two common questions related to filing a PCRA petition in PA:

    • Who can file a PCRA petition?
    • What is the time deadline to file a PCRA petition?

    Who can file a PCRA petition?

    In a nutshell, PCRA petitions can be filed by anyone convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania and who, at the time relief is granted, is serving time in prison, is on probation/parole or has been sentenced to death. See Section 9543(a)(1) of the PCRA.

    Related: David Nenner Criminal Case Review & Analysis: Acquittal in an Attempted Murder Case in Philadelphia

    What is the time deadline to file a PCRA petition?

    As a general rule, PCRA petitions must be filed within one year from the date the judgment becomes final (i.e., one year from the date of sentencing or one year from the date of final adjudication/decision of the direct appeal). There are some limited exceptions to this 1 year rule:

    1. government interference with presenting the claim,
    2. newly discovered evidence, or
    3. a newly recognized constitutional right which applies retroactively.

    Many people whose cases are outside the 1 year time limitation often want to know if some newly discovered fact or evidence is sufficient to allow them to file a PCRA petition. The answer depends on the nature of the evidence, when it was discovered, and why the evidence was not discovered earlier.

    For example, a defendant is convicted in a Philadelphia shooting case which was largely based on eyewitness identification. A key witness for the defense, who would have provided a solid alibi defense, went missing before trial. He was unable to be located despite multiple, reasonable attempts by the defense attorney and investigators. Years later, after the 1 year time limitation expired, the witness reappeared; he had moved to Mexico. Under these facts, a PCRA petition based on the reappearance of this witness would likely be allowed, despite the fact that the 1 year limitation had expired. However, the petition must be filed within 60 days of learning that the witness reappeared.

    Read Part 2 of this article which discusses common claims made in PCRA petitions.

    Pennsylvania Criminal Lawyer PCRA & Appeals – FREE Consultations

    Our legal team handles PCRA petitions and appeals throughout the greater Philadelphia area. When filing an appeal or a PCRA petition, it is important to have the case reviewed by a trial lawyer, someone with enough actual trial experience to be able to identify errors at trial and sentencing.

    Our lawyers have over 40 years of combined trial experience.  Call (215) 564-0644 for a free consultation.

    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. Since each case is unique, discussion of prior outcomes and settlements in past cases is no guarantee of a similar outcome in current or future cases. Contacting our lawyers via the email contact form on this website does not create an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through the contact form.

    David S. Nenner

    "Top Rated Criminal Defense Lawyer"

    MURDER, Att. Murder CHARGES – Negotiated Significantly Lower prison sentence (Feb. 2022, PHILA)

    Mr. Anderson faced murder and attempted murder charges after an incident in Northeast Philadelphia involving the shooting death of Anderson’s sister’s boyfriend and the boyfriend’s roommate who was shot 5 times and survived. The decedent had previously beaten the...


    The Commonwealth alleged that Mr. Shelton shot and seriously injured a male in a bar in North Philadelphia called Circles. There was video of the shooting which happened outside the bar. However, Mr. Nenner presented witnesses who testified that the person in the bar...


    Mr. Nenner's client was charged with multiple crimes (murder, conspiracy, aggravated assault, robbery, etc.) after a shooting death occurred at a gambling house in North Philadelphia. At trial, Mr. Nenner successfully presented a self-defense argument and convinced...


    Mr. Nenner’s client was charged with murder and gun charges in Philadelphia. The client was accused of shooting and killing another male on Arch Street near the 5600 block of Ithan Street in Philadelphia. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty after deliberating...

    Drug Possession Case – Motion to Suppress Granted

    Mr. Nenner presented evidence that to show that the traffic stop was a pretextual stop. The officer had no reason to pull the car over. The judge agreed and suppressed the evidence. As a result, the prosecution withdrew the charges.

    Sentencing for 1st Degree Murder in PA

    In this article below we discuss sentencing for 1st degree murder cases in Pennsylvania. In later articles, we will discuss sentencing for 2nd and 3rd degree murder cases. If you or a loved one is facing murder charges in Philadelphia or the surrounding counties,...

    Philadelphia Criminal Trials – Evidence Pointing to Another Perpetrator in Drug Possession or Drug Manufacture Cases

    In criminal trials in Philadelphia, one pretty common defense tactic is pointing the finger at another person at trial. This can raise enough doubt to result in a not guilty verdict by the judge or jury that the defendant was not the perpetrator of the crime. Here’s...

    Philadelphia Murder & Gun Possession Cases Increasing in 2021 – A Look at Common Charges & Defenses

    A look at PA criminal law for Murder (1st, 2nd, 3rd Degree), Aggravated Assault, Robbery, Possession of a Firearm, Carrying a Firearm Without a License, Carrying a Firearm in Philadelphia (misdemeanor).

    Pennsylvania Murder Charges, Deceased Person’s Statements Used to Prove Guilt

    Defense Trial Strategies – Excluding Statements That Accuse the Defendant Prosecutors often look to a deceased individual’s statements made prior to a murder to show that the defendant is guilty. These statements may point to a history of violence between the deceased...

    Pennsylvania (State) Drug Charges, Dog Sniffs & Constitutional Law

    Federal and Pennsylvania state courts treat narcotics dog searches differently. So different that the same scenario could result in different outcomes in federal versus state court. For example, a Philadelphia resident is pulled over for speeding. During the traffic...