The Appeal Process In A Criminal Case: How It Goes Down

Posted on: 29 August 2016

After committing a crime, a person is usually punished by the courts. Sometimes, though, the punishment that one gets may not seem fair. If you strongly believe that you deserve a lighter sentence or that your case deserves another look, then you should file for an appeal.

The Process

An appeal is defined as a petition made to a higher court by the defendant or appellant to overturn the ruling of a lower court. A higher court means a court that is higher in status than the one that gave you your sentence. For instance, if your sentence came from the Magistrates Court, you appeal to the District Court where one judge from the court will hear your complaints.

An appeal, however, does not necessarily mean that you are going to get a new trial; there are no witnesses called to testify or new facts submitted for review. What goes down during the appeal is that the court reviews the original transcript from your previous trial together with the evidence given at the trial. The court then checks if there were errors in the procedure or if the law was applied accordingly. If only minor errors -- also known as harmless errors -- are discovered, a new trial will not be granted and the judgment will not be overturned.

The Time Limit

The disadvantage of appeals is that they contain time limits. If you are appealing against a decision made by the Magistrates Court, for instance, you have 28 days from the date the decision was made to file for an appeal. If you are appealing against the Supreme Court or District Court, you have 21 days. But all is not lost if you fail to lodge an appeal within the required time frame. You can write to the Supreme Court asking for permission to appeal outside the given time frame. What you are asking for is known as extension of time in law.  

Grounds Of Appeal

You only appeal if you think that the court made a mistake in the initial ruling based on either an error of fact or an error of law.

Note, though, that a higher court can reject your appeal. The court also has the power of giving a harsher punishment as much as it has the power of reducing it. So it is better if you have a criminal law attorney by your side to guide you through the process.


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