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In part I of this article, we discussed the difference between direct appeals and PCRA petitions in PA criminal cases and the grounds of appeal for direct appeals. Part II of this article will discuss the different grounds of appeal for PCRA petitions.
Pursuant to 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9543(a)(2), the following are the grounds of appeal for PCRA petitions:
(i) A violation of the Constitution of this Commonwealth or the Constitution or laws of the United States which, in the circumstances of the particular case, so undermined the truth-determining process that no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence could have taken place.
(ii) Ineffective assistance of counsel which, in the circumstances of the particular case, so undermined the truth-determining process that no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence could have taken place.
(iii) A plea of guilty unlawfully induced where the circumstances make it likely that the inducement caused the petitioner to plead guilty and the petitioner is innocent.
(iv) The improper obstruction by government officials of the petitioner’s right of appeal where a meritorious appealable issue existed and was properly preserved in the trial court.
(v) (Deleted by amendment).
(vi) The unavailability at the time of trial of exculpatory evidence that has subsequently become available and would have changed the outcome of the trial if it had been introduced.
(vii) The imposition of a sentence greater than the lawful maximum.
(viii) A proceeding in a tribunal without jurisdiction.
PCRA Petitions – Common Grounds of Appeal
Common grounds of appeal for PCRA petitions are ineffective assistance of counsel and newly discovered evidence.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel (42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9543(a)(2)(ii))
In a nutshell, ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) occurs when criminal trial lawyers were incompetent in their representation of their clients and because of their actions, “no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence could have taken place.”
Examples of how criminal defense lawyers providing ineffective assistance of counsel are failing to call an alibi witness at trial and failing to explain the plea bargaining deal to the defendant. However, defendants must meet a three-prong test to prove that their lawyers were ineffective:
- there is arguable merit,
- counsel’s act or omission was unreasonable,
- the defendant was prejudiced.
See a discussion of the three-prong related to proving ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC).
Newly Discovered Evidence (42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9543(a)(2)(vi))
Newly discovered evidence is another common ground of appeal. Essentially, defendants are arguing that evidence not available during trial has become available. In addition, if the evidence was presented at trial, defendants would not have been convicted.
Like IAC, there are requirements defendants must establish in order for new evidence to be considered newly discovered evidence pursuant to the law.
Defendants must establish 3 things:
- the unavailability of the evidence at the time of trial,
- the evidence is exculpatory in nature, and
- the outcome of the trial would have been different, i.e., the defendant would not have been convicted.
Stay tuned for a discussion of other grounds of appeal for PCRA petitions.
Help Filing a PCRA Petition or Criminal Appeal in Philadelphia, PA
If you have questions about filing a criminal appeal or a PCRA petition for a loved one after trial, David S. Nenner, a top rated criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia, can help. Call (215) 564-0644 for a free consultation.
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