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What you should know if you have been convicted of a criminal offence in Canada
Can I appeal my conviction or sentence?
 
Yes, there is a right of appeal in Canada. This means that a higher level court will review the case for any deficiencies, called legal errors, that would warrant overturning the conviction or reducing the sentence.
  
What are my legal options on appeal?
 
You can challenge the finding of guilt, called a conviction appeal, or decide to appeal the sentence only, which is called a sentence appeal. You can also appeal both, in which case the sentence appeal acts as a fall-back position in the event that the conviction is upheld.

These are two distinct legal processes but as a practical matter, appeals against conviction and appeals against sentence (if both are pursued) proceed together, as if they were a single appeal.
 
Cost and a desire for closure may play a role in decision-making, since a conviction appeal entails more time and expense than a sentence appeal alone. Generally speaking, if you decide to appeal the conviction, there is very little downside to appealing the sentence as well: it will not lengthen the proceedings or add significantly to the cost. On the other hand, an appeal against sentence alone may be a better option if a conviction appeal is unlikely to succeed (when there was a guilty plea at trial, for example). 
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What can happen on a conviction appeal?
 
If the appeal court finds that there were legal errors in the trial that would have affected the outcome, it will set aside (overturn or quash) the conviction. Depending on the type of error involved, it can either substitute an acquittal or order a new trial. 

An acquittal is the best case scenario. It means that you have been cleared of the charges and the case is over. Most often, however, the court will order a new trial. Although this means that the prosecution is entitled to try the case again, it may decide for various reasons that a re-trial is not necessary or in the public interest, thereby putting an end to the case.
If, on the other hand, the appeal court finds no errors in the trial that would have affected the outcome, it will dismiss the appeal and uphold the conviction. The court will then go on to consider, if a sentence appeal was also launched, whether the punishment should be reduced.
 
What can happen on a sentence appeal?
 
If the appeal court is of the view that the punishment imposed by the judge was too harsh, it may substitute whatever sentence it deems fair. This may mean a shorter jail term, converting jail into "house arrest" (which is called a conditional sentence), and/or the removal or variation of other orders (such as restitution or a driving prohibition). The court cannot increase the sentence unless the Crown has launched a sentence appeal against you. Learn more about Crown appeals here.

What are my chances of winning on appeal?
 
The short answer is, somewhere between 30 and 39 percent if you are represented by counsel, and between 16 and 26 percent if you are not. These statistics apply to the Court of Appeal, which hears appeals from the more serious offences, called indictable. (See the Court of Appeal for Ontario's 2013 Annual Report.) Appeals from less serious offences, called summary conviction offences, proceed in the Superior Courts of Justice across the province.
 
The longer and more meaningful answer is also more frustrating: it depends. If you asked a mechanic what it would take to fix a problem with your car, he would likely tell you that he would have to look at it first. In the context of a criminal appeal, the inspection and estimate that would be done on your car is referred to as a legal opinion (or assessment) on the merits of appeal.

Beware of the Deadline to Appeal
 
A notice of appeal must be filed no later than 30 DAYS from the date sentenced was imposed. You should consult a lawyer as soon as possible after being convicted - particularly if you are likely to be sentenced to custody - because you may wish to bring an application for bail while the appeal is waiting to be heard. Read on to learn more about bail pending appeal and the appeal process.
 The information provided in this website is intended for general purposes only and is not a substitute for legal advice on your specific case.
 Consult a licensed professional to discuss the circumstances of your particular case. 
 
Please call or e-mail for further information or a free initial consultation on any criminal appeal matter.
416-357-5575
yuen@criminallawappeals.ca
  
 
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