Traffic Appeals

What is a Traffic Appeal?

A traffic appeal is when someone who loses a case in a trial court (such as a person who is found guilty of a traffic offense in a trial court) asks a higher court (the appellate court) to review the trial court’s decision.

In almost all cases, the appellate court ONLY looks at two things:

  • Whether a LEGAL mistake was made in the trial court; AND
  • Whether this mistake affected the final decision in the case.

An appeal is NOT:

  • A new trial with witnesses.
  • A chance to go to court and present your case all over again in front of a different judge.
  • A chance to present new evidence or new witnesses.

The appellate court cannot change the trial court’s decision just because the appellate court judges disagree with it. The appellate court only reviews what happened in the trial court to decide if a legal mistake was made in the original trial; for example, to see if the trial court judge applied the wrong law to the facts of the case. The trial court is entitled to hear the evidence and come to its own decision. The appellate court can only reverse the trial court’s decision if it finds a legal mistake in the trial court proceedings that was so important that it changed at least part of the outcome of the case.

Keep in mind that an appeal does not postpone the deadline for you to pay your fine or complete any part of your sentence. To postpone your sentence, you must ask the trial court for a “stay” of the judgment that includes the order for you to pay the fine.

To figure out f you can appeal the traffic court’s decision, there are three questions you have to consider:

1. Are You a Person Who Can Appeal This Decision?

Only a person or entity that was a party in the trial court proceeding, such as the  defendant in a traffic case, can appeal a decision in that proceeding. You may  not appeal on behalf of a friend, a spouse, a child, or another relative.

2. Can the Decision in Your Case Be Appealed?

You can appeal the final judgment in a case. The final judgment is the decision at the end that decides the whole the case. The final judgment usually says what defendant must do (like pay a fine). All final judgments are appealable.

You can also appeal most orders the trial court makes after final judgment.
However, decisions made by the trial court before final judgment cannot be appealed right away; they can only be reviewed as part of an appeal of the final judgment in the case.

3. Do You Still Have Time to Appeal?

You must be within the deadline to file an appeal. In traffic cases (and other infraction cases) you must file your Notice of Appeal within 30 days after the trial court makes (renders) its judgment in your case or issues the court order you are appealing. The date the trial court makes its judgment is normally the date the trial court orders you to pay a fine or orders other punishment in your case (sentences you). If you miss the deadline, you lose your right to appeal.

from California Courts

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