When you are found guilty of a criminal offence, the court will sentence you. If you think the sentence you were given is unreasonable, or errors were made during your sentencing, you can pursue a sentence appeal.
What is a sentence appeal?
In criminal law, an appeal is when you ask a higher court to review the decision made by a lower court.
Types of Appeals:
There are two types of appeal:
- Sentence appeal
- Conviction appeal
In a sentence appeal, you are effectively saying that the sentence you have been handed is not correct. This might be because it is disproportionate to your crime, or the law was applied inaccurately, or some other mistake was made.
In a conviction appeal, you are challenging the guilty verdict. Again, this is on the basis that some kind of mistake was made.
You can appeal your sentence, your conviction, or both.
Who can make a sentence appeal?
You can make a sentence appeal if –
- There has been a material error that has impacted the sentence, meaning the sentence would have been different, were it not for the error
- The sentence is demonstrably unfit, meaning it is obviously too harsh
Where there has been a material error, the appeal court will assess the fitness of the sentence by conducting its own sentencing analysis. If the sentence is unfit, the court may vary the sentence and impose a more suitable punishment.
Even where there is no error, or the error had no impact on the sentence, an appeal can still be made if the sentence is demonstrably unfit.
Time limits for appealing a sentence
If you want to appeal your sentence, you must act quickly. You have just 30 days to file a Notice of Appeal at the appeal court. The clock starts on the date of your sentencing.
Once the Notice of Appeal is filed, the court gets transcripts of your sentencing hearing. Both you and the Crown enter a factum. This is a written document that sets out your legal argument for the appeal.
Next, the appeal court sets a date for a hearing. During this, each side presents their case orally. There are no witnesses as it is not a trial. The appeal court then decides whether or not to uphold your sentence. If the court finds in your favour, your sentence may be varied.
Contact an experienced Criminal Lawyer
Appealing a sentence is a complex task. It requires an in-depth understanding of the law, along with the ability to meet tight deadlines. That is why you should ask an experienced defence lawyer to act on your behalf.