Can I appeal my conviction?
Appeals from the Magistrates' Court
In the Magistrates' Court you have an automatic right of appeal against conviction and / or sentence. This means that you can appeal against the magistrates decision to find you guilty and / or the sentence passed by the court following a conviction.
As an example, let's assume you pleaded not guilty to a drink driving charge and the case went to trial. At the trial you gave evidence about why you believe you were not guilty. The prosecution probably brought some witnesses (usually police officers) who also gave evidence. After the trial the magistrates found you guilty of drink driving. You have the right to appeal this decision.
If you decide to appeal you must lodge a Notice of Appeal within 21 days of the sentence being imposed. You should state the grounds on which you want to appeal (e.g. because you don't agree with the decision of guilty). You can appeal out of time but you may have to give reasons why your application is late.
An appeal would usually take place in the Crown Court where there is a complete rehearing of the case (assuming you appeal against conviction). The same witnesses are required to attend, including expert witnesses. A judge and two magistrates will hear the case and make a decision (your appeal would not be considered by a jury). If you appeal against the sentence only, the Crown Court will consider the facts of the case and determine whether the sentence is fair. The Crown Court will reduce the sentence if they feel that it is 'manifestly excessive'. This means that even if the sentence imposed by the magistrates is excessive, the Crown Court won't reduce it.
What are the risks?
It is important to understand that there are risks involved in appealing. First of all, you are liable for costs if your appeal is not successful. Costs can range from a couple of hundred pounds to a few thousand. Secondly - and perhaps more importantly - the Crown Court can increase the sentence if they think it is too lenient! This means that you could end up with a harsher sentence than what you started out with.
Your best option is to speak with a solicitor. Our team of specialist solicitors are on hand to offer free initial advice about the prospects of your appeal. We will offer an honest appraisal of your case.