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How to Appeal a Drug Crimes Conviction

Courts are designed to ensure those who are accused of an offense receive a fair trial, but trials aren’t always as fair as they should be. No system can remove the human condition, and that means courts aren’t immune from mistakes or bias that may unfairly skew the results. This isn’t something you’ll want influencing the outcome of your trial, particularly if you stand accused of a drug offense. However, if you do receive an unfavorable result and feel as though the verdict may have been made in error, you won’t necessarily have to stand for it—you may be able to appeal it.

On this blog, we’ll discuss how you can appeal your drug crime conviction and what you can expect when going through the process.

Can You Appeal?

Before beginning the appeals process, the first question you need to ask yourself is whether or not you actually can appeal your decision. Appeals are not a “do-over” of your trial, but rather they’re escalating the trial to a higher court, asking them to review the decision on the grounds that you believe it was made in error. You may appeal if you feel as though there was unfair bias against you, if the judge in your case placed unfair consideration on a particular piece of evidence or unfairly disregarded other evidence that could have helped you, or for other similar things. However, you may not appeal simply because you don’t like the outcome of your case.

If you are unsure whether or not you should pursue an appeal, talk to a Scranton drug crimes attorney about your case and they’ll help you determine whether or not it’s a good idea, and they’ll even be able to help you throughout the appeal to ensure your rights and best interests are looked after.

The Appeals Process

The first step in the appeals process is filing your appeal. Once you receive your sentence, you will have 30 days to file your appeal by submitting a notice of appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

Sometimes you may wish to make a post-sentence motion to challenge your sentence, which also makes the motion eligible for inclusion in your appeal case. Your attorney will help you determine if this is something you should do. These motions must be made within 10 days of sentencing. Regardless of the outcome of the motion, you’ll have 30 days to file your appeal after your motion is decided.

Once you file your appeal, you’ll have to submit a document informing the court what issues you intend to raise during your appeal, which your attorney will usually do for you. Once both sides (including your prosecution in your case) have filed a brief, oral arguments are usually allowed, in which your attorney will usually argue on your behalf why the appeal should be granted. It’s important to have experienced representation handle this part of the case—judges will often ask questions about the facts of the case and try to test the argument to see if it’s consistent and free from holes that might jeopardize it.

Appeals are decided by a panel of three judges who vote on the outcome, with the majority winning the appeal case, and one of the judges voting in favor of the winning decision writing the official “Opinion of the Court.”

Outcomes of an Appeal

More often than not, winning your appeal doesn’t mean your verdict is reversed. While this is a possibility, it’s fairly rare. The overwhelming majority of the time, winning your appeal simply sends the case back to a lower court where it can be re-adjudicated with the error corrected. In many cases, having the error fixed will usually result in a much better chance for a better result, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee it.

If you lose your appeal, the conviction will be upheld and you’ll have to serve the sentence you’ve been given. That being said, you don’t have to settle with the sentence you’ve been given either. You may be able to appeal the sentence if you feel as though it’s too harsh and doesn’t fit the crime, but you should discuss this with your attorney before pursuing it as well.

For more information or help with appealing your case after being convicted of a drug offense, call the Law Offices of William D. Thompson today at (570) 666-1068!

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