Criminal Trials and Appeals Process
A criminal trial is conducted with or without a jury depending on the type and seriousness of the charge. A criminal appeal is the method to appeal a criminal conviction or an unfit sentence that an accused receives after a guilty plea or a trial.
A criminal trial commences when the state (“the Crown”) prosecutes an individual, a group of individuals, or a corporation for a criminal or narcotics offence. The Crown carries the burden of proof to prove, with admissible evidence, the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. The accused is never compelled to testify or call evidence but may decide to do so under the discretion of his or her lawyer. From the evidence presented, a judge or jury renders a verdict of guilty or not guilty on all, some, or none of the charges.
The phrase “reasonable doubt” does not require proof to an absolute certainty nor does it suggest a frivolous doubt. Reasonable doubt requires a significant level of proof far beyond the “balance of probabilities” standard of proof in civil cases.
It is a fundamental principle in criminal law that you are presumed innocent throughout the entire trial unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at the conclusion of the trial.
If you are found guilty a sentencing hearing will be held by the judge. The Crown and defence make submissions and often present evidence that suggests what ought to be an appropriate sentence. The court must consider the circumstances of the case, the background of the offender, and the sentencing principles of general and specific deterrence found the Criminal Code.
The Right to Appeal
An accused has the right to appeal a conviction or a sentence at the conclusion of the case. There are specific rules in appeals and an accused cannot appeal simply because they disagree with the decision of the trial judge. The trier of fact must have committed an error of law or misapprehended a substantial piece of evidence in the trial. Davidson Gregory Tralenberg can meet with you to discuss the viability of an appeal upon review of the case.
Basis of Appeals
Anyone who is convicted has the right to appeal, but simply disagreeing with the court’s decision is not sufficient grounds. An appeal may only be brought forward on a question of law, a question of fact, or a question of mixed law and fact. In practice, appeals tend to be heard when they are based on allegations of legal errors rather than factual errors. For example, a decision about the credibility of a witness will rarely be overturned on appeal. However, if the strength of the evidence presented at trial did not support the verdict, it may be appealed. Or, if certain information was struck out in a ruling by the judge but the evidence had already been presented to a jury before the ruling was made, the verdict may be appealed. The sentence may also be appealed if it is believed the sentencing is too harsh in accordance to actual harm caused. Generally, the appeal process is designed to provide relief only in those cases where an error of such magnitude has occurred that the appellate court can conclude a miscarriage of justice occurred in the lower court.
Appeal Time Limits
Any appeal must be filed within 30 days of the verdict or sentence with a Notice of Appeal. The success of bringing a late appeal generally requires a demonstration that there was an intention to appeal within the time limit, that there is merit to the appeal, and that there is an adequate explanation for failing to institute the appeal within the proper time.
Representation in Appellate Court
It is possible for Davidson Gregory Tralenberg to represent you on your appeal even where another lawyer handled your criminal trial. Appeals require written legal argument and exhaustive legal research. Not all criminal lawyers handle appeals, but Davidson Gregory Tralenberg has extensive experience in criminal law, they have an appellate lawyer who has conducted appeals on Criminal Code and Controlled Drug and Substances Act offences.