Criminal Appeals and Post-Conviction Litigation

Handling criminal appeals and post-conviction litigation are important aspects of the firm's practice. Not all criminal defense lawyers can handle appeals. Appellate work requires the ability to identify those issues likely to result in relief, to conduct legal research, to write a persuasive legal "brief" (the written argument) and to argue the case before the appeals court. Post-conviction litigation demands legal creativity, raising new issues such as trial attorney ineffectiveness or "after-discovered" evidence, in order to obtain relief after the direct appeal has been exhausted.

For over 30 years, Costopoulos, Foster & Fields has successfully handled criminal appeals and post-conviction litigation before the Pennsylvania state and federal courts. This appellate work includes direct appeals from criminal convictions, asking the court for a new trial, a discharge, or a reduced sentence or resentencing. We have extensive experience before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, the U.S. District Courts, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Once an appeal is heard and decided, the court will release its decision in the form of an order and opinion. A few of these opinions are "published" or "reported," which means that they appear in the printed law books; most, however, are unpublished memorandum opinions. Among the landmark, reported appellate cases this firm has successfully handled are:

  • the famous Philadelphia Main Line murder case of Commonwealth v. Jay C. Smith, 615 A.2d 320 (Pa.1992), in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, after granting the defendant a new trial following his three murder convictions and death sentences, later released him from prison and dismissed the charges because of egregious prosecutorial misconduct;
  • the Adams County, Pennsylvania case of Commonwealth v. Barry Laughman, in which the murder-rape conviction against the defendant was overturned and the charges dismissed by the trial court after DNA testing proved his innocence 16 years later (Adams Co. No. 458-1987 – Order of August 26, 2004);
  • the Cumberland County, Pennsylvania case of Commonwealth v. Hess, 617 A.2d 307 (Pa.1992), in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court refused to allow the prosecutor to seize the funds the defendant needed to hire his attorney of choice on the basis that they were the proceeds of illegal drug trafficking;
  • the Dauphin County, Pennsylvania search-and-seizure case of Commonwealth v. Mason, 637 A.2d 251 (Pa.1993), in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined that the police illegally searched the defendant's apartment with a warrant and ordered the suppression of the drug evidence and a new trial;
  • the Cumberland County, Pennsylvania drug sentencing case of Commonwealth v. Myers, 722 A.2d 649 (Pa.1998), in which the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, reversing the Superior Court, affirmed the trial court's finding that, for sentencing purposes, the marijuana in question weighed less than 10 pounds, thereby enabling the defendant to avoid the 3-year mandatory minimum sentence;
  • the Perry County, Pennsylvania search-and-seizure case of Commonwealth v. Sharp, 683 A.2d 1219 (Pa.Super.1996), in which the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that the search warrant used to seize the drugs was fatally defective because it was too vague and insufficiently specific, overturned the defendant's conviction and granted him a new trial;
  • the U.S. Middle District of Pennsylvania civil forfeiture case of Santana v. U.S. Customs Service. 972 F.Supp. 304 (M.D.Pa.1997), in which the district court ordered the return of $300,000 in bearer bonds to the defendant convicted of international narcotics trafficking because the government waited too long to try to forfeit them;
  • the Dauphin County, Pennsylvania tax evasion sentencing case of Commonwealth v. Arent, 508 A.2d 596 (Pa.Super.1986), in which the Pennsylvania Superior Court overturned a sentence as too harsh because the individual sentences were imposed consecutively and ordered a new sentencing hearing; and
  • the Cumberland County, Pennsylvania forfeiture case of Commonwealth v. Crespo, 884 A.2d 960 (Pa.Cmwlth.2005), in which the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court refused to allow the prosecution to forfeit the defendant's goods which were unrelated to his criminal conviction.
  • the landmark liquor control case of Mallios, t/a Paradise Hotel v. Pennsylvania State Police, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, 633 A2d 1163 (Pa. 1993), in which the unamimous Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a citation to a licensee must be issued within one year of the date that the violation occurred.

Costopoulos, Foster & Fields handles all types of appeals and post-conviction litigation, including the filing of post-sentence motions, motions to modify sentence, direct appeals, post-conviction relief act (PCRA) petitions, petitions to withdraw guilty pleas, writs of habeas corpus, writs of certiorari, expungement petitions and others. We also litigate criminal or civil forfeiture appeals if a car, home, monies or other property has been seized by the police. In addition, its attorneys conduct reviews of older cases and recommend possible courses of action.

Because time deadlines must be followed strictly, potential clients are urged to contact us without delay in order to avoid being barred from pursuing an appeal or post-conviction petition.