By District Attorney Ryan Sayers
2023 Vol. 18
This week we finish our discussion in regards to appeals of criminal cases in Pennsylvania.
After briefs have been submitted and oral arguments are done (if there are any), then it is time for the Superior Court to make a decision.
These opinions and orders can be handed down within a few weeks or a few months, and it all depends on the complexity of the issues and internal discussions of the judges.
In general, there are three main decisions that the Superior Court can make: Affirmed, Remanded for Further Proceeding or Vacated and Remanded.
An “Affirmed” decision means that the Superior Court believes the manner in which a case was handled at the Court of Common Pleas was legally appropriate, and the rights of the parties were not violated.
Next is “Remanded for Further Proceeding,” which means that the Superior Court needs additional information or testimony because the record is not complete enough for them to decide an issue.
The third option is “Vacated and Remanded”, and this means that the Superior Court found error in a decision of the Court of Common Pleas and found a legal reason to overturn the lower court’s judgment.
For the party that loses on appeal, there are two potential options. First, the losing party can ask the Superior Court for reconsideration, which only happens in a very small percentage of cases.
The other option is to ask for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. However, as we discussed before, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania takes on a very small number of cases each year.
Thus, once the Superior Court makes its decision, that is usually the end of the line for a case and that decision ends up being the final word in a criminal case.
Over these last 18 weeks we have discussed trials, pleas, sentencing and appeals. Starting next week, we are going to take a step back and start a multiple week series on how cases are investigated and discuss prosecutorial discretion.
Ryan Sayers is the elected District Attorney of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania.
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