What is the Difference Between a Trial and an Appeal?

Defendants who don't receive a satisfactory outcome in court are granted the right to appeal. While many people understand the basics of trial court, there remains many misconceptions about appeals and the system defendants will have to navigate for one to be allowed. Trial court and appellate court are two distinguished systems with very few resemblances. Hence, why it would be a good idea to retain an attorney that has experience specifically handling criminal appeals. For the purpose of this article, I will address the distinct respective features of trial court and appellate court that make them unique.


Trial court is intended to determine a defendant's guilt or innocence based on the facts. Therefore, both sides are provided with the opportunity to present evidence, witnesses, and testimony. After all sides are heard, the judge objectively assesses the facts of the case and comes up with a ruling based on state criminal law.

In appellate court, on the other hand, none of these events ensue. Appellate court is designed not to hear witness testimony or to examine new evidence, but to challenge the decision made by a trial judge during a trial. This means, the examination of whether evidence was admissible, or if the interpretation of law was correct are factors that concern appellate judges.

Ruling Party

Trial courts generally involve a judge and a jury. In these cases, a judge decides a verdict based on the jury's interpretation of the cases presented in a case. In some circumstances, the right to a jury is waived in favor of a bench ruling, but it isn't as common. In appellate courts, the ruling party consists of a total of two or three judges that hear the argument and vote to make a ruling. In these cases, majority rules.


In trial courts, decisions made will only affect the parties involved in a case. Appellate court decisions, however, have potential to impact many other people due to their nature, and their effect on all other courts in the circuit, state, or even the country.

Recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the decision to impose a proposed state congressional map due to an unfair advantage to the GOP in a gerrymandering case. It's impactful because it has already encouraged groups to bring similar challenges against congressional partisan gerrymandering cases in other states, and even bypass a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania Criminal Appeals Attorney

For defendants who wish to appeal a conviction and/or sentence, contemplation about whether your trial lawyer is up for the task is completely necessary. These are two completely different systems which require different skills. To maximize your likelihood of success, you need an attorney who has experience specifically in handling criminal appeals. LLF Law Firm has years of experience helping their clients successfully navigate the appellate process, and they can help you do the same. Contact them today.

Contact Us Today!

The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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