Appeals courts exist to ensure that justice is administered as fairly and accurately as possible. These courts review the decisions of lower courts and overturn them if the lower court applied the law incorrectly. This means that the sentence you received at the end of your criminal trial is not necessarily the one you will serve in the event that you have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.
If you have been found guilty and sentenced in a criminal proceeding where you believe errors occurred, a Philadelphia appeals lawyer from The Zeiger Firm can help. We can review the record of your criminal trial to identify potential issues that may warrant relief and file a direct appeal on your behalf if necessary. We can also advise you of your appellate options and make sure that your claims are preserved and filed on time.
Turn to a Philadelphia criminal lawyer from The Zeiger Firm for an initial case evaluation to discuss your legal options for challenging your conviction and seeking the justice you are entitled to under the law. Call or reach us online today. Our initial consultations are free and confidential.
Our Firm Helps with All Types of Appeals
At The Zeiger Firm, we can provide you with the legal assistance you need when pursuing the various avenues for relief from a criminal conviction. These include:
If you have been convicted of a crime in Philadelphia or elsewhere in Pennsylvania, you have the right to file a direct appeal to the intermediate appellate courts at the state level. In a direct appeal, you must prove that some error occurred during the trial court proceedings in your case that affected or had the potential to affect the outcome of your trial.
Attorney Brian J. Zeiger is prepared to work diligently for you in your direct appeal. He will thoroughly review your case and identify issues that could lead to meaningful relief such as getting your conviction vacated or your sentence modified. Our firm will also make sure that your direct appeal is timely filed so that you do not lose the opportunity to have your criminal trial reviewed. Our respected appeals law firm can also help if you have grounds to take an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
If you were convicted of a federal crime, our firm can represent you in a direct appeal of your case to the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from the federal courts in Pennsylvania. As with state courts, you must show that some error occurred during the District Court proceedings that affected or had the potential to affect the outcome of your trial. Examples include an erroneous ruling made by the District Court judge or inaccurate jury instructions.
Attorney Brian J. Zeiger is also sworn in to the Supreme Court of the United States and can assist you with filing a petition for writ of certiorari, by which you may seek a discretionary appeal of your case before the court.
Habeas Corpus Petitions
A habeas corpus petition seeks review of your conviction by the federal courts. In a habeas petition, you must show that you were not afforded your federal constitutional rights during your criminal prosecution. In other words, the petition must allege that you are being unlawfully detained because you were convicted through the denial of your rights. So a federal court should order your release.
At The Zeiger Firm, we can help identify issues in your case that can be raised in a habeas corpus petition. We will also ensure your petition is timely filed so that you do not lose your right to federal review of your conviction.
Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA)
If you were convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania, you can seek collateral review of your conviction under the state’s Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA). In Pennsylvania, a PCRA petition basically serves the same function as a federal habeas petition. A PCRA petition can allow you to obtain judicial review of your criminal trial for any violations or deprivations of your state or federal rights that altered or may have altered the outcome of your trial. Common PCRA claim grounds include:
- Ineffective assistance of trial counsel or direct appellate counsel
- An unlawfully induced guilty plea
- Obstruction or interference by court or government officials of efforts to obtain a direct appeal of a conviction
- Discovery of exculpatory evidence unavailable at the time of the trial
- Imposition of a sentence by the trial court not authorized by statute, or a sentence that is recognized as unconstitutional
- Conviction by a court that lacked jurisdiction to try the case
Attorney Brian J. Zeiger can identify all potential claims that can be brought in a PCRA petition and ensure that your petition is filed in a timely manner.
Rule 35 & Rule 2255 Motions
In certain circumstances, our firm could help you seek relief from a federal conviction or sentence through a Rule 35 motion or Rule 2255 motion.
- A Rule 35 motion is filed by a U.S. Attorney to obtain the reduction of a sentence for a defendant who has provided “substantial assistance” to the government following sentencing such as serving as a government witness in another criminal prosecution.
- In a Rule 2255 motion, you can obtain relief from your conviction by showing that your trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel, and that the lack of adequate legal counsel affected or could have affected the outcome of your trial. Rule 2255 motions can also be filed to challenge the constitutionality of your conviction or sentence.
Even immediately following your conviction and sentencing, you have options for obtaining some relief from your sentence by filing a challenge with the sentencing court. These challenges may argue that the sentencing court imposed the wrong mandatory minimums or improperly imposed a sentence outside the range set forth in the sentencing guidelines. We can provide skilled advocacy to pursue a reduction of your overall sentence through a sentencing challenge filed with the sentencing court.
What Are the Grounds for an Appeal?
An appeal cannot be made simply because you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your trial. Instead, to succeed on appeal, you must show that some error happened during the pre-trial proceedings, the trial itself, or your sentencing. Common grounds for a successful appeal of a criminal conviction or sentence include:
- Officer misconduct such as illegal searches, destruction or planting of evidence, or coercion of confessions or testimony
- Prosecutorial misconduct such as failing to provide the defense with exculpatory or favorable evidence in the government’s possession, or by making improper arguments during trial
- Erroneous evidentiary rulings by the trial judge
- Ineffective assistance of counsel by trial counsel or counsel handling the direct appeal from a conviction
- Inaccurate or confusing jury instructions
- Insufficient evidence to support submitting a criminal case to a jury
- Juror misconduct such as independently researching information
- Sentencing errors, including imposing sentences not authorized by statute or failing to adequately consider aggravating/mitigating factors
Even if you can prove that some error occurred during prosecution, to obtain relief, you must show that the error affected or had the likely potential to affect the outcome of your trial or sentencing. Appellate courts typically do not grant relief to so-called “harmless errors” that did not have any effect on the lower court proceedings.
Understanding the Criminal Appeals Process
After a conviction, a criminal defendant may have options for obtaining post-conviction relief that include filing:
A motion for a new trial based on errors that occurred during the trial or pre-trial proceedings
A motion to set aside the conviction, which argues that the evidence presented at trial cannot reasonably support the jury’s verdict
A motion to modify or reduce the sentence, which asks the sentencing court to reconsider sentencing factors or points out that the sentence was not authorized by law
In most cases, these motions must be filed within days of the verdict or judgment of sentence. So time is of the essence. It will be important to get help from a Philadelphia appeals lawyer as soon as possible.
If a defendant cannot obtain relief in the trial court, their next option involves filing a direct appeal. The criminal appeals process begins with filing a notice of appeal with the intermediate appeals court. The notice of appeal must be filed within a specific period of time, or you could lose the right to appellate review.
If the initial appeal by right is denied, a defendant may further pursue relief with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.
Get Help from an Experienced Philadelphia Appeals Lawyer Today
If you are seeking relief from a state or federal criminal conviction or from the sentence imposed following your conviction, a Philadelphia appeals lawyer from The Zeiger Firm can help you by:
- Identifying possible errors that occurred during your prosecution
- Determining your legal options for appeal such as pursuing direct appeals or seeking collateral relief
- Timely filing your notice of appeal or petition
- Filing motions and petitions as necessary to preserve issues for appeal
- Preparing briefs in support of your appeal or petition for relief
- Advocating on your behalf during oral arguments
When errors during your criminal trial or afterward may entitle you to relief from your conviction, contact The Zeiger Firm to speak to Philadelphia appeals lawyer Brian J. Zeiger in a free and confidential consultation. He is prepared to discuss your case and explain your options for pursuing relief on appeal.