In the days following a DUI arrest, you might experience regret, sadness, embarrassment, or even anger as you grapple with the legal consequences. While it may feel like it now, a DUI conviction is not the end of the world. You can fight the charges, and even if you’re convicted, you can redeem yourself, possibly with an appeal.
Appealing a DUI in Pennsylvania can potentially reverse the outcome and restore your reputation if an error is made in your case. However, the Pennsylvania appeals process is complicated, particularly in DUI cases. It’s essential to seek help from an experienced DUI attorney knowledgeable about Pittsburgh DUIs, how to appeal them successfully, and which strategies can clear your name after conviction.
What is a DUI Appeal?
Say a teacher grades a test wrong, giving their student a much lower score. Should the student be forced to accept the bad grade? No. If they bring this issue to the teacher or school administrators, the grade should be reviewed, and any errors should be fixed so that the score accurately reflects their test.
Now—say the judge hands down a guilty verdict in your DUI case, but errors occurred during the trial that led to this decision. Should you accept their sentence anyway? Again, no. You likely deserve the opportunity to raise these issues to a higher court, which can review the trial, fix any mistakes, and decide whether the verdict is valid.
Common legal mistakes that may necessitate a DUI appeal:
- Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
- Juror Misconduct
- Improper Admission of Evidence
- Sentencing Errors
- Prosecutorial Misconduct
- Violations of Your Rights
- Newly Discovered Evidence
The DUI Appeals Process
An appeal would challenge the outcome of your DUI case if errors were made during the trial. Your DUI appeal could request that a higher court, known as an Appellate Court, reviews your case and determines whether the lower court made the right decision.
If an appellate court does not accept your appeal, they will likely uphold the original verdict. However, if specific issues arise during the trial, the appellate court can modify or reverse the lower court’s decision. A successful appeal often closes the case entirely.
When You Can Appeal a DUI Case?
Not every DUI conviction is eligible for an appeal. It is important to know the restrictions and requirements for filing an appeal and to consult with an experienced attorney before you decide if it’s the right step for you.
Within 30 Days
According to 210 Pa. Code § 903, you only have 30 days after a guilty DUI verdict to appeal your case. Wait any longer, and you may lose your opportunity to set the record straight.
Issues of Law
Appellate courts can only appeal a case over an “issue of law.” An issue of law means the lower court inappropriately interpreted or applied the law when trying a case.
For example, the trial court might have assumed your DUI arrest was lawful when the police didn’t have reasonable suspicion to pull you over. You could file an appeal as the defendant, citing the Fourth Amendment and other legal precedents to support your argument. After the appellate court hears your appeal, they will decide whether the lower courts applied the Fourth Amendment correctly or not.
An appellate court will review the facts of your case, but they will not decide based on them. They will only decide based on how the law was carried out in your trial.
Steps to a Pennsylvania DUI Appeal
There are various steps you can take to file an appeal for a DUI charge in Pennsylvania:
Contact an Appeals Attorney
If you believe you have grounds for an appeal, consult an attorney with experience handling these cases. Appeals have low success rates, so an attorney can be your best shot at success. They can identify any issues of law and advise you on whether the higher court will consider your appeal so you don’t waste your money or time.
File a Notice of Appeal
If your case can go to an appellate court, your Pittsburgh DUI appeals lawyer will file a notice of appeal. Generally, you must file the notice of appeal within 30 days from the date of your DUI conviction, and it must be filed in the same court as your trial.
Submit a Written Brief
Once the court has notice of your appeal, your attorney can draft and issue a brief. This document explains the specific issue of law in your case that you are challenging. If your brief does not list an issue of law, the appeal will not be considered.
Your attorney will write the brief correctly, supplementing your argument with relevant case laws and legal precedents. The brief should also explain the specific relief you seek if the case is overturned, such as the dismissal of your DUI, a sentence reduction, a re-trial, or otherwise.
Present to the Appellate Court
Both sides typically present their oral arguments to the appellate court. With aggressive legal representation, you can fully prepare for your case to be heard in the Appeals Court and have a convincing advocate to support your appeal.
You cannot introduce new evidence when your appeals case is presented to the appellate court. Your attorney can only argue about legal mistakes in your original trial. Because of this, you need a lawyer who is knowledgeable, thorough, and experienced with Pennsylvania appeals. If a DUI court wronged you, you mustn’t fumble your second chance at justice.
Contact a DUI Appeals Attorney Today
Criminal law should be applied consistently across cases. However, uniformity doesn’t always happen. Consider filing an appeal if you believe questionable practices or legal mistakes led to your Pittsburgh DUI conviction. At Worgul, Sarna, & Ness Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC, our dedicated criminal defense team has a record of success with Pennsylvania DUI cases.