Appeal in a criminal case

This site tells you what happens when a case is appealed from the district court to the Court of Appeal.

What can be appealed?

Appeals can be lodged against District Court judgements with the Courts of Appeal. Both parties can appeal - the convicted party and the prosecution. Appeals have to be lodged within two weeks. However, the victim, next of kin or injured party affected by a criminal act cannot appeal if they are dissatisfied with a District Court judgement. 

Appeals can apply to:

  • evidence submitted to prove guilt 
  • the sentence 
  • case proceedings 
  • application of the law

If the accused's appeal concerns evidence submitted to prove guilt, exact details have to be given in the appeal. This means that in a new court case, the issue of whether the accused has done what he is accused of or not is addressed. The Court of Appeal has to consider all sides of a case, known as full appeal hearing.

If the appeal only concerns the case proceedings in the District Court, you must describe the mistake you believe was made. Explaining why you believe the judgement is wrong will also be an advantage. If there is new evidence in the case, it should also be referred to.

Not all appeals are allowed

The Court of Appeal has to consider all appeals, but not all of them are allowed to proceed to a full hearing, see section 322 of the Criminal Procedure Act (link to lovdata.no). If the Court of Appeal rejects an appeal, it has to provide a written ruling explaining why a full appeal hearing will not be allowed.

Appeals cannot usually be disallowed in cases that can lead to a prison sentence of over six years. Appeals will not usually be allowed in cases when the prosecuting authority seeks judgement in the form of a fine, confiscation or loss of driving licence and the court did not make judgement for any other penal sanction. The Court of Appeal can consent to hear such appeals when there are special reasons to do so.

In other cases, an appeal can be rejected when the Court of Appeal finds it obvious that it has no grounds to proceed. An appeal from the prosecuting authority that is not to the advantage of the accused can be rejected when the court believes it concerns minor issues.

Who lodges an appeal?

Your defence counsel can advise you on whether to appeal or not, and can help you write your appeal. You can also obtain help from the court, the prosecuting authority or prison staff. The appeal must be signed by you.

Up to six years imprisonment

If the maximum sentence in a case is up to six years imprisonment, the Court of Appeal is composed as a bench trial. That means that there are three professional and four jurors. Jurors are selected at random from the same panel as jury members are drawn from. There must be two women and two men. The court has to be unanimous on all its rulings and all members have an equal vote. To find a person guilty, requires that at least five of the jurors vote for that verdict. All other decisions are made by simple majority. 

Six years imprisonment or more

If the maximum sentence in a case is six years imprisonment or more, the question of guilt is decided by a bench trial consisting of two professional judges and five lay judges. To find a person gulity, there must be a qualified majority among the seven judges. This means that at least five of them must vote for a guilty verdict and this majority must include at least one of the professional judges. 

This form of bench trial will replace the norwegian jurysystem grom 2018. There will still be some jury-cases in 2018, but not from 2019 and onwards.

Jury-cases

A jury consists of ten people, ideally five women and five men. Members are drawn for each case from the panel of jury members. The court always summons fourteen jury members and two deputies.

The accused and the prosecuting authority can deselect up to three jury members each according to certain rules.

At least seven of the ten jury members have to vote in favour of the judgement for the accused to be found guilty. Four jury members will then decide sentence along with the three district judges.

If less than seven vote in favour of the sentence, the jury has decided ‘no’ to the question of guilt.   The jury can only decide ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on whether the accused is guilty without explaining its reasoning.

The jury's decision can be overruled

In the interests of the accused's legal rights, the jury's decision can be overruled by the district judges for retrial. In such instances, the case will be heard by bench trial. Judgement can be overruled in two instances:
- The jury decides that the accused is guilty but the district judges do not believe that sufficient evidence exists to concur.
- The jury has decided ‘no’ to the issue of guilt, whilst the district judges unanimously believe that the accused is undoubtedly guilty.

Limited appeal hearing

If the Court of Appeal is to only consider the sentence in cases when the maximum sentence is up to six years imprisonment, the case will be heard by three district judges. The case is usually heard as verbal proceedings. When the Court of Appeal has to hear an appeal against sentence in cases when the sentence tariff is six years imprisonment or more, it sits with four jurors and three district judges.

If an appeal concerns application of the law or case proceedings (i.e. the Court of Appeal will only consider whether the District Court correctly applied the law or made a mistake in the proceedings), the court will only consist of three district judges.