How to Appeal Your Conviction In Ontario
by: Geoff Haskell, Associate
Have you been charged and convicted of an offence in Ontario? Do you feel that the Court’s decision was unfair or unreasonable? Would you like to get a second opinion?
If you answered ‘yes’ – then you are in luck. In Ontario, anyone convicted of an offence has the right to appeal the decision.
Regardless of what charge you were convicted of; you can either appeal the conviction itself, the sentence that was imposed on you, or both. The difference between the two is straightforward. A ‘conviction’ is the Court’s decision that you are guilty as charged. If you think you should not have been found guilty, you should appeal your ‘conviction’. On the other hand, a ‘sentence’ is essentially the punishment that the Court gives you because you were convicted. If you believe that you were guilty, but the sentence was too harsh, you can appeal your ‘sentence’. If you believe that you should not have been found guilty and you think the sentence was too harsh, then you can appeal both.
Depending on the type of appeal, the process can be lengthy and potentially costly, so it is important to take action quickly – and not wait until it is too late. Failure to act in a timely manner will create further delays, and potentially higher costs as well. Depending on what you were convicted of, there are several options that you can pursue begin an appeal.
Appealing a Provincial Offence:
If you have been convicted of a Provincial offence, such as traffic offence, or a liquor/cannabis violation, then you can easily initiate an appeal and have your case heard again in court. Provincial offences can typically be appealed at the same courthouse where you were convicted. In larger municipalities, you may need to go to a different courthouse to file your appeal.
The appeal process is fairly straightforward, but there are a few things you should know.
Appeals must be commenced within 30 days from when you were convicted and sentenced. If the 30 days have already passed, then you will need to take an extra step to extend the time to appeal.
If you are under the 30 days, or you have received an extension of time from the Court, you must fill out a form called a “Notice of Appeal”. However, before the Court will allow you to start your appeal, you must do two things.
- First, you must pay off any fines that you currently owe. If you cannot afford to pay the fines first, then you can ask the court to temporarily waive the payment by signing a “recognizance”. A recognizance (or ‘recog’ for short) is a promise you make to the Court that you will complete the required steps for the appeal. If you make this promise and then break it, you may end up paying up to double the amount of the original fine! So, do not make this promise unless you are sure that you will complete all the steps.
- Second, you must order a “transcript” from your trial. A transcript is simply a typed version of everything that was said during your trial. The cost of a transcript depends solely on the length of the transcript. The transcript for a two-hour trial will be far less expensive than a trial that lasted for two days.
Once you have completed those first steps, you must take your Notice of Appeal and give a copy to the prosecutor and a second copy to the Court. It’s important to note that there are many different types of prosecutors in each courthouse, so make sure you deliver the notice to the correct office, otherwise your appeal will not be heard.
Appealing a Criminal Offence:
If you have been convicted and sentenced for committing a Criminal offence, such as assault, or theft, you have a right to appeal to a higher court. You must start your appeal within 30 days from when you were sentenced. However, unlike appealing a ‘Provincial offence’ you are not required to pay off any fines or order a transcript until after you file your ‘Notice of Appeal’.
If you are representing yourself on your appeal, then you must fill out a form called an “Inmate Notice of Appeal”. It is similar to a regular ‘Notice of Appeal’, but is designed for persons with little or no knowledge of the appeal process.
Once your Notice of Appeal is filed, you will need to order transcripts from your trial. Depending on the length of the trial, the transcripts can take up to six months to be prepared – so do not wait.
After receiving your transcripts, you will need to set a date for the hearing of the appeal. On the date that your appeal is to be heard, you will be given a specific amount of time to speak to the court and convince them that the decision(s) made in your case were unfair or unreasonable.
Appealing with Legal Aid Ontario:
In Ontario, persons convicted of an offence may be eligible for legal aid for their appeal. Typically, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) only assists persons that have been convicted of criminal offences, and not Provincial offences. However, if your Provincial offence conviction led to a severe sentence or jail time, LAO will consider funding your appeal.
If you are convicted of a criminal offence, LAO will fund your appeal if they believe that the appeal has a good enough chance of success. In order to receive support from LAO, you must contact them and let them know that you would like assistance with your criminal appeal.
To qualify for legal aid, you must be financially eligible. This means that your annual income must be below a certain threshold to qualify for assistance. If LAO determines that you are not financially eligible, you can either pursue the appeal on your own, or hire a legal professional like a lawyer or paralegal.
Please feel free to contact our office, as Derstine Penman has a great deal of expertise in the appeal process and can assist you regardless of how far along in the process you are.
Remember that this content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. If you have further questions, or need legal representation, feel free to contact a toronto criminal lawyer or call our firm at 416-304-1414.