What is the Court of Criminal Appeal?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2019
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A court of criminal appeal is a court that only considers appeals related to criminal cases from the lower courts. The term is often applied to criminal courts of appeal in Scotland and Ireland, but is also used in some states in the United States, as well as other locations around the globe. The main purpose of a court of criminal appeal is to determine whether the lower court applied the law correctly during a criminal trial.

There may be some slight differences regarding procedure, but generally a court of criminal appeal can only act on a case once a side has decided to exercise an appeal. In some countries, such as the United States, the only side that can do this is the defendant. In other countries, either side has the right to pursue an appeal. If a prosecutor believes a trial was tainted in some way that resulted in acquittal in these countries, then he or she has the right to appeal, but only for certain crimes.

Once the court of criminal appeal has received the case, it has to determine if there is a justified basis for the appeal. If so, then the court may overrule the original verdict. If that is the case, the next step is for the court to determine whether a new trial is necessary or whether the matter can be resolved at the appellate level.


The court can also make a ruling upholding the original verdict. This takes place when the court of criminal appeal rules the law was applied correctly. The court may also uphold a verdict even if it rules there was an error, but determines that error did not have an influence on the original verdict decision.

Depending on the jurisdiction, the court of criminal appeal may be the final step in the appeals process. If that is the case, the decision of the court will stand. If not, then one or both parties have the option of appealing the case even further, perhaps to a supreme court. This higher court is usually not required to hear all cases.

Generally, a defendant that is appealing a verdict has the same rights as he or she had in the lower court. This includes the right to be represented by an attorney appointed at the public’s expense, if the defendant cannot afford one. Also, depending on the severity of the crime and the risk of flight, the defendant may also have the right to bail until the appeal is resolved.



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