Clarity Law

Specialist Traffic Law Firm Queensland
Sunday, 24 September 2023 15:37

How to Appeal a Traffic Conviction

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If you have been found guilty of a traffic offence such as careless driving, evading police, unlicenced driving etc,  or sentenced to a traffic offence and you do not agree with the decision of the Magistrate, you have the right to make an appeal to the District Court. However, the rules, timeframes, and procedures of appeals are complex and often difficult to navigate. In this article, we describe the process of appeal in simple terms to give you an idea about what to expect if you are thinking about making an appeal.

For the purposes of simplicity, we discuss appeals of traffic convictions in the context of cases heard in the Magistrates Court. All offences contained in the Transport Operations (Road Use Management) Act 1995 and associated regulations, are dealt with in the Magistrates Court. However, there are some traffic offences (such as dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death or grievous bodily harm) that are properly criminal matters and must be dealt with in the District Court. The process for appealing a District Court conviction is made to the Court of Appeal.

Please note this article is not intended to provide information about appealing against a speeding fine or other traffic infringement.


Purpose of a Traffic Appeal

The purpose of an appeal is to allow the District Court to correct the error(s) that you claim the Magistrate made which caused them to make a faulty decision(s). This error or errors must be either factual, legal, or discretionary. An appeal is not a “do-over” of your original case. The classic statement of appeals was made in the 1936 case of House v The King:

It is not enough that the judges composing the appellate court consider that, if they had been in the position of the primary judge, they would have taken a different course.  It must appear that some error has been made in exercising the discretion. If the judge acts upon a wrong principle, if he allows extraneous or irrelevant matters to guide or affect him, if he mistakes facts, if he does not take into account some material consideration, then his determination should be reviewed and the appellate court may exercise its own discretion in substitution for his if it has the materials for doing so. It may not appear how the primary judge has reached the result embodied in his order, but, if upon the fact it is unreasonable or plainly unjust, the appellate court may infer that in some way there has been a failure properly to exercise the discretion which the law reposes in the court of first instance.

The last observations are important. It may be that, on review of the Magistrate’s decision, a specific error cannot be identified. However, if the result itself (ie, the decision to find you guilty, or the sentencing decision) cannot be reasonably supported by material put to the Magistrate, or by anything said to or by the Magistrate, the District Court may make an inference that the decision made by the Magistrate was damaged by some error.


Process of Appealing a Traffic Conviction

Appeals against traffic convictions or sentences are made to a single judge of the District Court pursuant to s 222 of the Justices Act 1886. The timeframes for filing an appeal and the associated documents with the District Court are strict.

You must file your appeal with the District Court within one month from the date of conviction. If you fail to file your appeal within this month, you must ask the District Court for permission to bring your appeal outside of this timeframe. The court will only grant you permission if you can demonstrate a good reason for filing late. This is not an easy thing to do.

You start an appeal by filing a Notice of Appeal with the District Court. The Notice of Appeal is a document that states your name, the offence for which you were convicted (eg, driving whilst under the influence of liquor, etc), the penalties imposed (fine, drivers licence disqualification, etc), and the basis on which you are appealing (the “grounds” of the appeal). A copy of this Notice must be given to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (the “DPP”). The District Court also provides a copy of this Notice to the Magistrates Court in which the conviction was made.

Once the Notice of Appeal is filed, you have 28 days to prepare and file a written outline of argument. This written outline must state why you believe the original decision of the Magistrate was wrong, how the District Court ought to fix this mistake, and the outcome you are seeking from the Court (eg, to substitute a different sentence, etc). This written outline must be accompanied by any documents that you intend to rely on to prove your argument. These documents must include the court transcript of the proceedings at the Magistrates Court. You must obtain the Magistrates Court transcript yourself and at your own expense.

Once your written outline is complete and filed with the court, a copy must be provided to the DPP. The DPP then has 28 days to file its response to your appeal. The DPP may either oppose your appeal or take no position.

After the written outlines are filed with the Court and copies exchanged, both you as the applicant and the DPP as the respondent sign a Certificate of Readiness. This Certificate must be provided to the District Court within either 14 days of the DPP providing its written outline, or within 42 days from the date you gave a copy of your written outline to the DPP.

Once the District Court receives the Certificate of Readiness, it will give you a date for the hearing of your appeal before a District Court Judge. The purpose of the hearing is for you and the DPP to expand upon your points of view, as outlined in your written submissions, in oral argument. You can expect the Judge to “test” your arguments by offering alternative views and seeing how well you deal with counter arguments.


Common Grounds of Appeal

The most common grounds of appeal for traffic convictions are:

  1. Appealing the conviction itself if you went to trial and were found guilty; or

  2. Appealing the sentences imposed if you plead guilty or were found guilty at the end of a trial.

The most common grounds for appealing the sentences imposed are:

  1. Appealing the decision to record a conviction;

  2. Appealing the penalty (ie, fine, community service, imprisonment, etc); or

  3. Appealing the length of time you were disqualified from driving.

It some rare cases, an appeal may be brought on the basis of more than one of the above grounds; eg, you may appeal both the length of the licence disqualification and the decision to record a conviction.

You may also rely on one or more grounds of appeal that, on the face of it, appear inconsistent; ie, you may appeal against conviction and against the severity of the sentence. This is known as arguing “in the alternative.” The purpose of doing this is to allow you to have one or more “fallback” positions. In other words, if your appeal against conviction fails, you may then go on to argue that the sentence was manifestly excessive. Of course, you can only appeal against sentence if you plead not guilty in the Magistrates Court and were found guilty at the end of a trial. You cannot appeal against conviction if you initially plead guilty. An appeal will not help you if you subsequently changed your mind about how you should have plead the first time.


The Evidence Used in Appeals

As a general rule, appeals of traffic convictions must be based on the evidence relied on in the Magistrates Court. Hence the reason why you must provide the District Court with the transcript of the proceedings before the Magistrate. It is from the transcript that you will point to the mistake that you are asking the District Court to correct. You may also rely on any documents that you provided to the Magistrates Court, such as traffic offender course certificates, character references, medical reports, etc.

However, you may be permitted to give the District Court new evidence, but you must ask the court for permission. If you are granted permission to produce this new evidence, the court may take it into account when deciding your appeal.

For example, suppose you attempted to give the Magistrates Court a medical report in support of why the court should reduce your sentence, but the court refused to accept it. You may appeal the sentencing decision on the basis that the Magistrate ought to have received the report and then taken the contents of the report into account when sentencing you. You may appeal to the District Court on the basis that the Magistrate’s refusal to accept the report was an error that affected the outcome of sentence. If you are successful in this argument and the District Court Judge grants your appeal, the Judge may allow you introduce the medical report at your appeal and re-sentence you, using the contents of the report as mitigating sentence.

This is not the only circumstance in which the District Court may allow you introduce new evidence into your appeal. The legislation does not restrict the court in the use of its discretion. However, you must have a good reason to justify why the court should ignore the rule that appeals are determined on only the evidence provided to the Magistrates Court.


Possible Outcomes of a Traffic Appeal

In simple terms, there are only two possible outcomes of an appeal: either the appeal is dismissed, or it is granted. Nevertheless, if you have claimed several grounds of appeal, you may encounter the situation where the District Court grants the appeal on the basis of one or more of your appeal points, but dismisses the others.

If your appeal is dismissed in its entirety, that is the end of the matter (unless you wish to appeal further to the Court of Appeal).

If the court grants all or some of your appeal, then the court has a few options to correct the error(s) that have been identified by the appeal. Firstly, in cases of appeal against sentence, the District Court may substitute its own sentences for those of the Magistrates Court. In more complex appeals, or appeals against the conviction itself, the District Court may send your case back to the Magistrates Court to be dealt with properly. If you successfully appealed against conviction, that means sending your case back to the Magistrates Court for a new trial.



Appealing a traffic conviction to the District Court is not a simple process. Firstly, you must identify the specific error(s) the Magistrate made, then ensure that you present a clear, logical, concise argument to demonstrate what error(s) was made and how it affected the outcome of your case. District Court Judges do not grant appeals lightly, and you can expect that they will scrutinise your argument carefully.

This is why it is important to get expert legal advice from the outset and quality representation at the hearing of your appeal. If your appeal is dismissed for lack of preparation, you may have to live with the outcome knowing that you possibly could have avoided it. Our firm has extensive experience appearing before the District Court and we know what Judges expect of appeals.


Why should I engage Clarity Law?

Quite frankly we care about getting the right outcome for our clients and helping them through one of the most difficult times in their lives.

In the face of a traffic charge, selecting the right legal representation is paramount, and Clarity Law offers a unique blend of proficiency and empathy that sets us apart. Our firm is dedicated to providing clarity in the often complex world of traffic law. We believe that every client deserves a clear understanding of their rights and the legal process they're navigating.

Our experienced team of lawyers approaches each case with a commitment to open communication, ensuring you're informed every step of the way. With a proven track record of securing favourable outcomes, we have the expertise to navigate even the most intricate legal challenges.

At Clarity Law, we strive not only to be your staunch advocates but also to provide a supportive, understanding environment during this trying time. Choosing Clarity Law means choosing a team that will tirelessly work to protect your rights and pursue the best possible outcome for your case.

You can read more about our founder, Steven Brough’s, journey to starting Clarity Law by clicking here


How do I get more information or engage you to act for me? 

Please note we cannot provide help or information information about appealing a speeding fine or other traffic infringement.

If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;

  1. Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone at a time that suits you

  2. Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 7pm

  3. Click here to select a time for us to have a free 15 minute telephone conference with you

  4. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  5. Send us a message on Facebook Messenger

  6. Click the help button at the bottom right and leave us a message


We are a no pressure law firm, we are happy to provide free initial information to assist you.  If you want to engage us then great, we will give you a fixed price for our services so you will know with certainty what we will cost.  All the money goes into a trust account monitored by the Queensland Law Society and cannot be taken out without your permission.

If you don’t engage us that fine too, at least you will have more information on the charge and its consequences.


Need more information?

We have a range of articles on our traffic law blog.  Some of the most recent have included:


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Russell Tannock

Russell Tannock is a senior traffic lawyer at Clarity Law.  Russell appears in all courts in South East Queensland helping clients with traffic charges in court. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.