Road Law
The art of the appeal

By Jeff McConnell & James Mennella, Attorneys at law

No, it is not a sequel to a Donald Trump book, and you may not need Trump’s money to afford an appeal. However, you do need to know a few things in order to successfully perfect an appeal should the need arise. The total subject matter for appeals is comprehensive, so it’s best to introduce the concepts rather than too much specificity for any given case. Here are some frequent questions we receive about the appeals process.

Q. I was recently found guilty on a citation I received in Pennsylvania. I would like to appeal my case and need to know how to proceed.

A. The good news is that Pennsylvania has what is known as a “de novo” appeal, which essentially means that as long as you properly perfect your appeal, you get a new hearing at the next court level. This is very advantageous for you as nothing is brought up from the lower court hearing.

If you are going to try and perfect the appeal on your own, there are generally three things that need to be accomplished. First, you generally need to obtain the proper appeal form from the court clerk. Second, you will likely need to post an appeal bond or fee. Last, you need to accomplish all of this within the statutory allowed time period, which varies from state to state.

Q. I was recently convicted of a traffic offense and want to appeal my case. I asked someone about an appeal and was told that I could appeal for errors of the trial court. What does this mean?

A. That is a great question and an important thing to know. There are three basic types of appeal in the United States. For simplicity, we are going to narrow this to two. The first is an appeal for some “error” that the trial court/jury made in rendering the final outcome. The second is “de novo,” which is essentially a fresh look at the case.

In the states where you appeal for “error,” you have to be very careful in how you present your case. One of the biggest problems is not having a record or transcript from your original court on which to base your appeal. Sometimes, you may be required to hire a court reporter or ask the court for a reporter or other electronic recording of the proceeding. Without a record to base your appeal on, you are wasting time and money if you can’t show the higher court where the error in your case was made.

Further, unlike a “de novo” appeal, the cost associated with an “error” appeal sometimes is prohibitive. In the legal world, a brief generally needs to be written that points out the error(s) that were made as well as references to controlling case law, etc. If the appeals court agrees with you, there is no guarantee that your conviction will be overturned or that your case won’t be reheard in the same court after the error has been corrected. LL

Send any questions or comments regarding transportation law to: Jeff McConnell and James Mennella, Road Law, 3441 W. Memorial, Suite 4, Oklahoma City, OK 73134; call 405-242-2030, fax 888-588-8983, or email

This column is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Land Line Magazine or its publisher. Please remember everyone's legal situation is different. Consult with an attorney for specific advice on your situation.