Criminal Appeals: Why Getting it Right the First Time Matters
Have you been wrongfully convicted of a criminal offence? Are you unsatisfied with the result achieved at trial? You are not without options. However, criminal appeals in Alberta can be complex and are very time sensitive. Therefore, it’s important to get an experienced Criminal Appeal Lawyer in Edmonton to assist you with your appeal as soon as possible.
Generally speaking, every individual convicted of a criminal offence has the right to appeal their conviction to a higher court at least once. Depending on what level of court your trial was held in, and how the crown proceeded (i.e. by summary or indictment), you will either have the right to appeal to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench (in the case of summary conviction appeals) or the Alberta Court of Appeal (in the case of appeals of indictable offences). Depending on what happens at the first Appellate Court, you may even have the right to a second appeal to an even higher court, being either the Alberta Court of Appeal (in the case of Summary Conviction Appeals) or the Supreme Court of Canada (in the case of Appeals of Indictable Offences). If you do not have the right to a second level of appeal, you may be permitted to apply for permission (known as leave) to further appeal your conviction.
Appealing a conviction, however, is extremely difficult. Because Appellate Courts do not have the opportunity to observe and hear directly from the witnesses in your trial, the Appellate Court will generally defer to the findings of fact made by the trial judge unless those findings of fact are clearly unreasonable or tainted by significant errors. If the trial judge made an error of law, your appeal may be theoretically easier than appealing on the facts. However, trial judges are presumed to know the law and occasions where a trial judge makes clear errors of law may be rare.
This is why it’s so important to hire an experienced criminal lawyer from the start. You do not want to wait until you have been convicted to hire a competent lawyer to represent you.
Generally, appeals are decided only on the evidence brought out at trial. While there are exceptions to this rule, Appellate Courts are hesitant to allow individuals to submit new evidence at their appeal, lest individuals simply refrain from calling relevant evidence at trial so that they can bring it up later on appeal if they are convicted. Again, this is why it’s important to hire an experienced criminal lawyer prior to your trial.
If it is too late, however, and you have been convicted of an offence that you feel you should not have been convicted of, the Experienced Appellate Lawyers at Liberty Law would be happy to assist you. As with all potential clients, we offer a free 30-minute consultation to speak with an Appellate Lawyer to give you some preliminary advice about a possible appeal.
It is very important to act quickly once you have been convicted of a criminal offence. The deadline to appeal your conviction is 30 days from your conviction or sentence (which are usually, but not always, on the same day). If you miss this deadline, it is very difficult to obtain an extension of the time to file your notice of appeal. You will be required to explain why your appeal was not filed within the 30-day deadline and, depending on the reasons, the Appellate Court may or may not grant you an extension of time to file your notice of appeal. The experienced appellate lawyers at Liberty Law would be happy to assist you with filing your notice of appeal so that you can preserve your right to appeal, while you decide whether you actually want to go ahead with the appeal. There is no cost to file a Notice of Appeal for criminal law matters. If you file an appeal, and later decide you do not want to appeal, you can always abandon your appeal, again with no cost to yourself (save for any legal fees incurred, if any).
If you obtained a lawyer for your trial through Legal Aid Alberta, you may qualify for coverage through Legal Aid Alberta for your appeal. However, coverage through Legal Aid Alberta will require that an opinion be provided by either your trial lawyer, your prospective appeal lawyer or another qualified Legal Aid Alberta roster lawyer. If you do not qualify for coverage for legal fees through Legal Aid Alberta, we have a number of Appellate Lawyers at Liberty Law, at various different price points, who would be happy to assist you. To discuss which lawyer at Liberty Law would be best suited to handle your appeal, call 1-833-784-7500 to set up your free 30-minute consultation now.
Sentence AppealsIf you are satisfied with your conviction, or plead guilty to an offence or offences, but are unsatisfied with the sentence you received, another option available to you is to simply appeal your sentence. Again, what level of court your sentence will be appealed to, depends on what level of court initially sentenced you and whether the Crown proceeded by summary conviction or indictment.
Like conviction appeals, sentences are difficult (but not impossible) to change once they have been imposed. A sentence will not be changed on appeal simply because the Appellate Court would have given you a slightly different sentence. Sentences will only be changed if the sentencing judge made an error of law that contributed to them imposing the wrong sentence or if the sentenced imposed was clearly unreasonable, demonstrably unfit or obviously excessive. Again, it is important to get an Experienced Appeal Lawyer in Edmonton to help you with your Sentence Appeal.