Generally, you only have 30 days within which to file a notice of appeal with the clerk of the Court of Common Pleas to preserve your right to appeal. The 30 days is calculated from the date on which you were sentenced or, if your attorney filed a motion following your sentencing, from the date of the decision on the motion.
Federal cases have a much shorter time within which you must file your notice of appeal. Instead of the 30 days that you would have if you were appealing a state conviction in Pennsylvania, if your conviction and sentencing was in one of the federal courts, you have only 10 days to file the notice of appeal.
Missing the filing deadline in either state or federal court could result in the loss of your right to appeal your conviction or sentencing regardless of how meritorious the grounds for your appeal might be. Ensuring that you at least have the chance to appeal your case is simply a matter of not procrastinating or delaying. Contact an appellate attorney as soon after your conviction as possible to protect the filing deadline.
Other things you can do besides acting quickly to help you to succeed on appeal include:
- Preserve the issues for appeal: Make sure that your trial attorney puts on the record any objections he or she might have to rulings by the trial judge on admissibility of evidence or instructions to the jurors. Not preserving these issues through an objection could lose them as a basis for an appeal.
- Make sure appealable orders are appealed: As was mentioned in a previous chapter, interlocutory orders that have the effect of determining the outcome of a case might be appealable. Talk to your attorney about orders made by the trial judge to make certain you are not losing some of your appellate rights.
- Follow the rules: An appeal is not an opportunity to retry the case you just lost. Be frank and honest with your criminal appeals attorney when reviewing the evidence presented at the trial. If there was evidence that was not discovered until after the trial, discuss this with the appeals lawyer who might recommend making a motion for a new trial.