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Grounds for appealing a criminal conviction

If you have been convicted on a criminal charge(s) by a trial court, then you have the right to appeal your sentence to the court of appeal of your province or territory.

Be forewarned though: grounds for appeals are limited and your appeal must fit into them. You can’t just appeal because you don’t like the sentence.

What are the grounds for appeal?

Section 675 of the Criminal Code of Canada lays out the grounds on which a conviction can be appealed. The section states that a person who has been convicted by a trial court can appeal against his or her conviction to the court of appeal on the following grounds:

  • If the basis of the appeal is one which involves a question of law;
  • If the basis of the appeal is one which involves a question of fact or a question of law and fact, with leave of the court of appeal or a judge or on the certificate of the trial judge that the case is a proper case for appeal; or
  • This ground can be another ground of appeal, but the caveat here is that the basis of the appeal must be strong enough to warrant an appeal. Again, not liking the trial judge’s decision is not enough, there must be a very good reason for the appeal to be brought in front of the court of appeal, otherwise it will be rejected.

Only if a judge erred in law, did not place the appropriate weight on certain sentencing principles, or if the sentence went beyond sentencing principles, etc., could the reason(s) for appealing be valid.

Can the Crown appeal?

Yes, where an offender has been found to be not guilty, or the offender was found guilty but got a sentence that the Crown feels is too light given the crime committed, the Crown, too, can appeal.

What if I feel the Court of Appeal made an error?

You can ask for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. Again, the grounds to appeal a criminal conviction to the Supreme Court are limited and many leave applications are not granted. You need to speak to your lawyer about what the chances are about your leave application being successful.

Appeals are quite complicated and it’s extremely important to consult with a criminal lawyer when deciding whether to appeal a criminal conviction, as they will be able to tell you what the chances of success are for your potential appeal.

Read more:

Criminal Code of Canada Right to Appeal

BC Court of Appeal: How to Appeal Your Sentence