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Appeals in criminal law matters

Appeals against convictions and sentences are complicated—get legal advice before starting an appeal.

The procedures for appealing the outcome of a criminal law matter are different if you were convicted and sentenced in the:

There are strict time limits for appealing court decisions. Get legal advice as soon as possible.

Appealing from the Magistrates Court

If you plead guilty in the Magistrates Court, you may only appeal the sentence that was imposed against you. Get legal advice as soon as possible.

If you plead not guilty, and you were convicted and sentenced after a hearing, then you may be able to appeal against the conviction, sentence or both.

There may be risks in appealing a decision from the Magistrates Court (eg if your appeal is unsuccessful the court may seek to increase your sentence). Get legal advice.

Starting an appeal from the Magistrates Court

To start an appeal from the Magistrates Court, you must file a notice of appeal using Form 27 – Notice of appeal to a District Court Judge (s. 222)—(.DOC, 53KB) in the nearest District Court registry.

If you’re in jail you can give your notice of appeal to Sentence Management and they will arrange for it to be filed in the court.

Time limits

The Notice of appeal must be filed within 1 calendar month from the date of the decision that you wish to appeal. 

If the form is not filed in time, you must ask the court for an extension of time by filing a Form 27b - Notice of application for extension of time for filing notice of appeal to a District Court Judge (PDF, 34KB) with the Notice of appeal.

Hearing an appeal from the Magistrates Court

A single District Court judge will hear an appeal against the magistrate’s orders.

Grounds for an appeal

The grounds for an appeal are the reasons why you think the magistrate made the wrong decision. You should get legal advice about what grounds of appeal may apply to your case.

Abandoning (stopping) an appeal

To abandon (stop) an appeal, you must file a Form 27e - Notice of discontinuance of appeal or application (PDF, 57KB). Once this form is filed your appeal is finalised and you can’t restart it except in exceptional circumstances.

Appealing from the District or Supreme Court

If you plead guilty in the District or Supreme Court, you may appeal to the Court of Appeal against the sentence given to you. In exceptional circumstances you may be able to appeal your conviction if you’ve pleaded guilty. Get legal advice.

If you plead not guilty in the District or Supreme Court and you were convicted and sentenced after a hearing, then you may be able to appeal against the conviction, sentence or both.

There may be risks in appealing a decision from the District or Supreme Court (eg if your appeal is unsuccessful the court may seek to increase your sentence). Get legal advice.

Starting an appeal from the District or Supreme Court

To start an appeal from the District or Supreme Court, you must file a notice of appeal using Form 26 - Notice of appeal or application for leave to appeal against conviction or sentence (.DOC, 32KB) in the nearest Supreme Court Registry. 

If you’re in jail, you can give your notice of appeal to Sentence Management who will arrange for it to be filed in the court.

Time limits

The notice of appeal must be filed within 1 calendar month from the date of the decision that you wish to appeal.

If this form is not filed in time, you must ask the court for an extension of time by filing a Form 28 - Notice of application for extension of time within which to appeal. (.DOC, 30KB)

Hearing an appeal from the District or Supreme Court

The Court of Appeal is made up of 3 judges hearing appeals from the District or Supreme Court.

Grounds for an appeal

The grounds for an appeal are the reasons why you think the judge or jury made the wrong decision, or the trial wasn’t conducted according to the law. You should get legal advice about what grounds of appeal might apply to your case.

Abandoning (stopping) an appeal

To abandon (stop) an appeal, you must file a Form 30 - Notice of abandonment of appeal or application(.DOC, 22KB). Once this form is filed your appeal is finalised and you may not restart it except in exceptional circumstances.

Appeals from the Queensland Court of Appeal

You can appeal a decision from the Court of Appeal to the High Court of Australia.

The High Court of Australia has a permanent courthouse in Canberra. The High Court judges visit Queensland each year to hear Queensland criminal appeals. The High Court will only agree to hear cases that have major public importance.

The High Court has complicated procedures and you should get legal advice if you want to appeal a Court of Appeal decision.

You have 28 days from judgment to apply for special leave to appeal to the High Court.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you:

  • want to find out if you can appeal your sentence or conviction
  • pleaded guilty to your conviction but now you want to appeal your conviction
  • want to appeal a Court of Appeal decision.

How to get legal advice

We may give legal advice about most areas of criminal law.

If you have been charged with a serious offence or have an urgent matter, you should apply for legal aid,  or get a private lawyer, rather than waiting for a legal advice booking.

The following services may be able to give you legal advice and help.

Community legal centres may give free legal advice and information on criminal law. Contact them to find out if they can help.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation on criminal law matters.

Who else can help?

These organisations may be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.

Queensland Courts gives information on:

  • Supreme Court
  • Court of Appeal
  • District Court
  • Magistrates Court
  • Coroners Court
  • Childrens Court of Queensland
  • Land Court.
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