If you have been convicted of a criminal offence, you can appeal the decision to a higher court for review, if you have grounds to do so. It is possible to appeal the conviction itself, the sentence you received, or both. Some appeals are awarded as of right, while others require leave of the court to do so. It is also possible that the Crown may also file an appeal in your case. There are strict timelines in terms of how long an individual has to file an appeal.
What is an Appeal?
When you have been convicted of a criminal offence after trial, the road does not necessarily have to stop there. If you have grounds to do so, you can file an appeal against the conviction you received, the sentence you received, or both. An appeal forces a higher court to review the decision of the lower court judge. Which court will hear your appeal depends on the type of offence you were convicted of:
- If convicted of an indictable offence: you appeal to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, which is the highest level court in Ontario. Your appeal will be heard by 3-5 judges.
- If convicted of a summary conviction offence: you appeal to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Your appeal will be heard by one judge, in the same jurisdiction as your trial occurred.
If the Court of Appeal for Ontario upholds your conviction (indictable offence): You can appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in the country. If there was a dissenting opinion by the appeal judge, this grants you the right to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. If there was no dissenting opinion, you can still apply to appeal, but leave must first be granted by the Supreme Court of Canada.
If the Ontario Superior Court of Justice upholds your conviction: You can appeal to the Court of Appeal for Ontario, with leave of the court.
What Happens at the Appeal Stage?
An appeal is not a brand new trial. The appellate court will review the transcripts of the original trial and the decision of the judge in order to determine if the judge made an error. Generally speaking, there will be no new evidence introduced at the appeal stage, although there are limited exceptions.
There are several possible outcomes at an appeal:
- The appeal judge can overturn the lower court’s decision;
- The appeal judge can uphold the lower court’s decision;
- The appeal judge can vary the individual’s sentence;
- The appeal judge can order a new trial, meaning the case will be sent back down to the lower court for a brand new trial.
How Long do you Have to File an Appeal?
Once an individual is sentenced, he has 30 days to file his or her appeal. It is possible to file for an extension. However, if granted, the maximum length of the extension per the Court of Appeal for Ontario’s rules is 30 days.
Appellate law can be very complex. An experienced appeal lawyer can assess whether you have grounds for appeal, the merits of the Crown’s appeal, and craft a strategy that is tailored to your case. Contact our office today at 416-924-5969 to learn more about how we can help you.