Appealing Against a Driving Conviction
If you pleaded not guilty
If your case was heard in a Magistrates’ Court and you are found guilty, you have an automatic right of appeal to the Crown Court.
You can only appeal against conviction if you pleaded not guilty.
You can also appeal against the sentence imposed in the Magistrates’ Court whether you pleaded guilty or not guilty.You might therefore appeal against sentence or conviction or both depending on the circumstances.
An appeal is a complete rehearing by a Crown Court Judge sitting with two Magistrates, neither of whom will have heard your case before.You might be able to introduce fresh evidence and will certainly need to make fresh arguments.
You do not need permission to appeal as long as you serve a notice of appeal on the Magistrates Court which dealt with your case in the 21 day period allowed by the rules. If you are late you will need permission from a Crown Court Judge but unless the delay is substantial and inexcusable permission is usually given. The appeal notice needs to set out why you challenge the decision of the Magistrates’ Court, but its at the hearing itself that a full argument is presented.
The decision of the Crown Court to allow or to refuse the appeal will be final unless you want to make a further challenge on a point of law, in which case the appeal then goes to the High Court. The prosecution can also appeal on a point of law if it thinks Magistrates or a Judge has made an error, but such appeals are uncommon.
I have helped guide many drivers through the appeal process against both conviction and sentence, and successfully argued for more lenient sentences. Where the Magistrates’ sentence included a disqualification I have successfully obtained suspensions until the appeal is heard. I apply either to the Magistrates who heard the case or to the Crown Court in advance of the appeal hearing. I have had particular success when Magistrates have refused to accept an argument that a driving ban will cause ‘exceptional hardship’ and imposed a 6 month or even longer disqualification. This has been really useful for people who represented themselves initially, or had inadequate representation.
It is not uncommon for drivers to find they have been convicted and sentenced in absence, perhaps because the papers did not arrive or were sent to the wrong address. If this happens to you and you were unaware of the court case you can apply for the proceedings to be re opened. I have done this many times, persuading the court that it is in the interests of justice to start again. It means the case can start afresh but this time with your participation. It allows you to properly prepare yourself and seek legal guidance.
Strong Legal Representation
In order to overturn a conviction the Crown Court must be satisfied that the Magistrates court made the wrong decision on the evidence. On an appeal against sentence, the Court will need to be persuaded that the sentence was unjustified and disproportionate to the offence.
Successful appeals rely on in-depth knowledge of the law and the ability to present your case in the strongest possible way. This makes it absolutely essential to ensure that you have the best legal representation. I am often asked to take over cases in which either the defendant represented themselves and got into had difficulties, or felt that they were poorly represented by their legal counsel or solicitors.
You only get one shot at an appeal so it important that you enter into it with a clear case and with strong representation.