Can I appeal a drink driving conviction?
Yes, you an appeal a drink driving conviction.
There are several different types of drink driving offences. All, except causing death by drink driving, are tried initially in the Magistrates’ Court, with either a district judge presiding or a panel of three lay magistrates. The trial is a summary trial, without a jury.
If you are found guilty of a drink driving sentence, the Court will impose a sentence on you – and will ordinarily do so in accordance with sentencing guidelines for your particular offence (or offences).
You can appeal your conviction, your sentence, or both.
If you were tried initially in Magistrates’ Court, your appeal will be to the Crown Court, although it is also possible to appeal to the High Court, if the basis for your appeal is that the Magistrates’ Court committed an error as to the law or acted outside its jurisdiction in some respect.
If you were tried initially in Crown Court, you may appeal to or the Court of Appeal or, as above, the High Court.
To appeal, you must give notice to the appellate court within 21 days of the date of your conviction or sentence.
If you appeal to the Crown Court, the court will re-hear your case. This is different to what ordinarily happens on an appeal. It is a re-trial, with the court hearing your case in its entirety all over again. The re-trial will be heard by either a circuit judge, or by a recorder sitting with two lay magistrates.
After re-hearing your case, the Crown Court can confirm the decision of the Magistrates’ Court, reverse that decision or otherwise vary it. It can also send your case back to the Magistrates’ Court with its opinion as to how the Magistrates Court should deal with it. If you have appealed your sentence, the Crown Court can confirm your sentence or vary it (by either reducing it or increasing it).
If you appeal to the High Court, then your appeal will relate only to questions of law or jurisdiction. The High Court will hear the appeal on those questions, but will not re-hear your entire case. As with an appeal to the Crown Court, the High Court can confirm, reverse or alter the Magistrates’ Court judgment or remit the case back to the Magistrates’ Court.
Grounds for appeal
Although there are fairly limited grounds of appeal of a drink driving conviction – particularly if you were tested and found to be over the limit when stopped by a police officer – there are sometimes reasons why an appeal may be appropriate. You might, for instance, have a basis for questioning the accuracy of the breath alcohol test (or any other test you were given) or there may be relevant facts that, for whatever reason, the Magistrates’ Court did not take into account when it convicted you of the offence.
Those appealing a sentence will have some basis for contending that the sentence was too onerous. It may be that it was greater than what the relevant sentencing guidelines specified, or perhaps the Magistrates’ Court did not take certain mitigating factors into account.
An appeal on a matter of law will be more complex, and in most circumstance will be something that you will want to discuss with a solicitor before proceeding (although bearing in mind that you have a very limited period in which to lodge your appeal – usually 21 days after you are sentenced).
Getting help with an appeal
In general, appeals can be complex. This is particularly true of appeals to the High Court and Court of Appeal, which will involve detailed questions of law.
There are lots of solicitors who handle drink driving appeals. Many of them advertise, either online or otherwise. You can also find an appropriate solicitor by using a matching service like Contact Law, which can introduce you to a solicitor with the relevant skills and experience at no cost to you.