Appealing a court decision

If you disagree with a court’s decision or think your penalty is too harsh, you can appeal to a higher court.

However, a higher court could reject your appeal and give you an even harsher penalty. Get legal advice before deciding to appeal a decision.

Time limits on appealing

You have 1 calendar month from your conviction or sentence date to appeal; for example, if you are sentenced on 10 November, you have until 10 December to appeal. If you don’t lodge the appeal in time, you generally cannot appeal.

However, you might be able to apply for permission to appeal ‘out of time’, so you should ask a lawyer whether this applies to you.

It could be months before the court hears your appeal. If you’re in custody during this time, you might be able to get bail while you wait, though this is not common.

What can be appealed

You can appeal against guilty verdicts (if you pleaded not guilty) and sentence harshness. The Crown (the state or federal government) can’t appeal a jury’s verdict of not guilty, but can appeal sentence leniency.

Where your appeal is heard

If you were sentenced by a Magistrates Court, you will appeal to a District Court. A District Court judge sitting alone will hear your appeal.

If you were sentenced by a District Court or the Supreme Court, you will appeal to the Queensland Court of Appeal, where 3 judges will hear the case. No juries are involved in appeals.

Note: Most appeal judges do not rehear the original case; instead, they focus on whether an error occurred during the original hearing or trial that disadvantaged you or led to an excessive or inadequate sentence.

Civil and criminal cases

The District Court and Court of Appeal can hear both civil and criminal cases.

Civil cases

Civil cases involve one party suing another, usually for financial gain. Disputes can involve anything from defamation to a dog bite.

If your civil case appeal is successful, the court may change the original decision or order a retrial. It may order a new trial if one party finds new evidence that the court agrees was not available in the original trial and is important.

Criminal cases

Criminal cases include crimes that are offences against the broader community, such as robbery, rape and murder.

In criminal cases, a person can’t appeal unless the defendant was found guilty. If they were found not guilty, the verdict is final.

If you are found guilty, you can apply for permission to appeal if you think your sentence was too harsh or the court made a mistake that resulted in your conviction.

You cannot just claim that the court was wrong because it didn’t believe your story.

If your appeal against the conviction is successful, the court will either order a new trial with a different judge and jury or find you not guilty. If your appeal against the harsh sentence is successful, the court may reduce the sentence or impose a different sentence.

Who can appeal?

In civil cases, any party can appeal a decision but the court may need to give permission to appeal.

Sometimes the court will hear appeals from people who were not parties to the original action but were left out or directly affected by the outcome.

In criminal cases, only people directly involved in the case can appeal and a party can’t appeal a not-guilty verdict. However, you, as the defendant, can appeal a guilty verdict and apply for permission to appeal a sentence, while the Crown can appeal only a sentence.

Representing yourself

You can represent yourself in the Court of Appeal but you should get legal advice about whether you have valid grounds to appeal.

Court staff cannot provide legal advice or recommend what you should do in your case. However, they can help you with general court procedures and protocols relating to your appeal.

Find out more about Going to court without a lawyer.

Victims of crime and appeal

Victims of crime can’t appeal against a criminal sentence but may apply for assistance from Victim Assist Queensland.

Your family and friends cannot appeal.

Further information

Queensland Court of Appeal