In Pennsylvania, people who have been convicted of a crime and can establish that they did not receive a fair trial, may be able to appeal their conviction. Filing an appeal is a time-consuming and complex process, so if you were recently convicted of a crime and have reason to believe that you are eligible for post-conviction relief, it is critical to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can explain your legal options.
Qualifying for Post-Conviction Relief
After a conviction, a defendant can file a direct appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court, as long as it is submitted within 30 days of his or her final judgment. Alternatively, a petitioner can file an appeal under the Post Conviction Relief Act. To qualify under this law, a person must have been convicted of a crime and be:
- Currently serving a prison sentence, probation, or parole;
- Awaiting execution of a death sentence; or
- Serving a sentence which must expire before he or she can begin serving the sentence at issue.
A petitioner must also demonstrate that:
- The Constitution was violated during his or her trial;
- He or she received ineffective assistance of counsel;
- He or she was unlawfully induced to plead guilty;
- Government officials obstructed his or her ability to bring an appeal;
- New exculpating evidence has been discovered;
- The sentence imposed was greater than what was legally allowed; or
- The trial took place in a court that did not have jurisdiction.
A petition for an appeal must be filed within one year of the date that a person received a final judgment. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule that allow for an extension, including situations where:
- The failure to raise a claim was the result of government interference;
- The facts upon which the claim relies were not known to the petitioner at the time that the petition should have been filed and could not have been discovered, even with the exercise of due diligence; or
- The right asserted is a constitutional right that was not recognized by the state or U.S. Supreme Court until after a year had already passed.
A person who satisfies one of these exceptions must file a petition within two months of the date that the claim could have been presented.
If a reviewing court determines that a legal error was made in the previous trial, the judge could order that the conviction be reversed, award a new trial, or reduce the petitioner’s sentence.
Contact a Dedicated Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
A judicial error, prosecutorial misconduct, or a perjured witness can have life changing consequences for defendants, which could include an extended prison sentence, probation, and hefty fines. If you or a loved one were recently convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania, please contact van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin by calling (215) 486-0123 and we will help you set up a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help explain the appeals process.