What to Know When Appealing a Sentence

The appeals process occurs in 10.9% of cases. A losing party will appeal a verdict to a higher court, and the court will take on the burden of searching for any legal errors that may have occurred.

The higher court will have the option of denying an appeal, or they may reverse the decision of a lower court.

“An appeal cannot be filed until a sentence is imposed on a defendant. Once a sentence has been imposed, the defendant has several options for challenging the conviction, the sentence, or both,” explains a Philadelphian appeals attorney.

Appealing a Sentence or Conviction

Appealing a sentence or conviction is an option, and it allows for a state or federal court to review a lower court’s ruling. State courts may have an appeal go to the federal level, with the Supreme Court being the last form of appeal.

The Court of Appeals is an intermediate court that doesn’t have the authority of the Supreme Court, yet the court is above the state level.

Appeals can be automatic or through filing. An automatic appeal can be requested when a jury has found a person guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” You have the right to appeal in this case, but you will need to file a notice of appeal.

The filing plus the appellate brief are required, but you have the automatic right to appeal.

Attorneys must file a notice of appeal within a set amount of time. If an appeal is not filed, you may lose your right to an appeal completely. Under rare circumstances you will need a very good reason for missing the appeals deadline.

Appeals are Not a Retrial

When a sentence or conviction, or both, are appealed, you’re not entering into a retrial. The appeal will do a few things:

  • Affirm that the conviction is correct, or
  • Remand the case to the trial court for more proceedings, or
  • Reverse the conviction to the trial court

If a reversal is given, the case is sent back to the trial court for a new trial. You may be able to appeal the court of appeals’ decision to a higher court.

A lot can happen during an appeal. In the event that mistakes are apparent, it may be possible for an acquittal to be granted or a new trial to take place. There are also times when a motion for judgment hasn’t been filed, but new evidence has been presented.

New evidence, which isn’t available before the trial, may be presented with a motion for judgment.

You are not allowed to present new evidence during the appeals process. The court of appeals will only be able to judge the sentence or conviction that was handed down with the evidence provided to the trial court.

A post-conviction petition can allow for mistakes to be presented, based on new evidence. This is when it’s best to present new evidence that may help you win your case. An appeals attorney will be able to help you determine if appealing is your best option.