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 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 appellate court cannot change the trial court's decision just because the appellate court judges disagree with it. 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. Because of this heavy burden of proof, it is quite difficult to win an appeal.

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.

Read Information on Appeal Procedures for Infractions (Form CR-141-INFO) for more information on appealing traffic infraction cases.



Figuring Out if You Can Appeal a Traffic Case

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.

How to Appeal in a Traffic or Other Infraction Case

Read Information on Appeal Procedures for Infractions (Form CR-141-INFO) for detailed information and step-by-step instructions on appealing traffic infraction cases. The information on this website is a summary only. Form CR-141-INFO explains the process in more detail and you must make sure you follow what those instructions say.

1. Filing the Notice of Appeal

The first step to appeal in a traffic or other infraction case is filing the Notice of Appeal. A Notice of Appeal is the document you file in the superior court where your case was decided to let the court and the other parties know that you are appealing the court's decision. Filing the Notice of Appeal begins the entire appeals process.

In a traffic or other infraction case, you can use Notice of Appeal and Record of Oral Proceedings (Form CR-142) to prepare and file your notice of appeal.

You can file the Notice of Appeal as soon as the order or judgment you want to appeal is made by the superior court judge. You MUST file your Notice of Appeal no later than30 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.

To file the notice of appeal in a traffic or other infraction case, you must bring or mail the original notice of appeal to the clerk of the trial court in which you were convicted of the infraction.

  • There is no fee for filing the Notice of Appeal.
  • Ask your court clerk if your court requires you to file any other court forms or do any other steps.

After you file your Notice of Appeal, the clerk will send a copy to the prosecuting attorney in your case (like the district attorney or city attorney).

2. Telling the Court You Want a Record of Oral Proceedings

When you file your notice of appeal, you must also tell the trial court whether you want a record of what was said in the trial court send to the appellate court. What was said in the trial court is called "a record of the oral proceedings." If you want to raise any issue in your appeal that would require the appellate division to consider what was said in the trial court, the appellate division will need a record of these oral proceedings. Since the appellate court judges were not there for the proceedings in the trial court, an official record of these proceedings must be prepared and sent to the appellate court for its review.

  • If you want the record of the oral proceedings sent to the appellate division, you have to tell the trial court what type of record you want to use. On the section called Record of the Oral Proceedings of your Notice of Appeal (Form CR-142), check the boxes about whether and how you want to provide the record.
  • There are 3 different forms of the record of the oral proceedings: (1) a "statement on appeal," which is a summary of the trial court proceedings approved by the judge that heard the case; (2) an "official electronic recording" or "a transcript of that recording" (if the proceedings were officially recorded); or (3) a "reporter's transcript" (if there was a court reporter at the trial).

3. Preparing a Statement on Appeal

If you decide you want to use a "statement on appeal," you must prepare a proposed statement. If you are not represented by a lawyer, you must fill out and file a Proposed Statement on Appeal (Form CR-143). The proposed statement must be served and filed with the trial courtwithin 20 days after you file the Notice to Appeal. Or you can file your proposed statement at the same time as you file your Notice of Appeal.

  • Your Proposed Statement on Appeal (Form CR-143) must say why you are appealing the decision in your case.
  • You must serve a copy of your proposed statement on the prosecuting attorney (the city attorney, district attorney, or other government agency). Read What is Proof of Service? (Form APP-109-INFO) for information on serving documents.
  • Have your server fill out a Proof of Service (Appellate Division) (Form APP-109).
  • File the Proof of Service with your Proposed Statement on Appeal (keep a copy for yourself).

The prosecuting attorney (the city attorney, district attorney, or other government agency attorney) has 10 days after you serve him or her with your proposed statement to file and serve proposed changes (called "amendments") to this statement.

The judge of the trial court will review your Proposed Statement and the prosecuting attorney's amendments. If the judge makes any changes to the proposed statement, a corrected statement will be sent to you and the prosecuting attorney. If you disagree with any part of the judge's statement, you have 10 days from the date it is sent to you to serve and file objections. After the judge reviews objections and makes any additional corrections, she or he will certify the statement and the clerk will send it to the appellate division as the record of the oral proceedings in the trial court.

4. Other Parts of the Record on Appeal

In addition to a certified statement on appeal or other record of the oral proceedings, the appellate court also gets a record of all the written documents filed in your case. This record, which is prepared by the trial court clerk, is a called a clerk’s transcript. Exhibits, such as photographs or maps, that were admitted in evidence, refused, or lodged (temporarily placed with the court) in the trial court are also considered part of the record on appeal. If you want the appellate division to consider an exhibit, you must ask the trial court clerk to send the original exhibit to the appellate division within 10 days after the last respondent’s brief is filed in the appellate division.

5. Briefs

A brief is a party's written description of the facts in the case, and the law that applies, and the party's argument about the issues on appeal.

Briefs are the single most important part of the appellate process. The record on appeal (the clerk's transcript and statement on appeal or other form of the record or the oral proceedings) provides the court with a picture of what occurred in the trial court. But it is the arguments in the briefs that tell whether or not there was a legal error in those proceedings and whether it changed the outcome of the case. The best briefs contain your entire argument, guiding the court through the case and using the record and legal authority to justify your points. Because of the specialized knowledge necessary for writing a good brief, the briefs are also by far the most difficult part of the appellate process.

Once the appellate division receives the complete record on appeal, it will send you a notice telling you when you must file your brief. It is usually 30 days after the record is filed in the appellate division, BUT it may be more or less time, so make sure you read the appellate division's notice with the deadline carefully.

  • You must write and file a brief by the deadline.
  • If you miss the deadline for your brief, the court may dismiss your appeal.
  • Read rule 8.927 of the California Rules of Court and rule 8.928 for information on the requirements for preparing, serving and filing briefs in infraction appeals.
  • You must serve a copy of the brief on the prosecuting attorney (the city attorney, district attorney, or other government agency attorney). Read What is Proof of Service? (Form APP-109-INFO) for information on serving documents.
  • Have your server fill out a Proof of Service (Appellate Division) (Form APP-109).
  • File the proof of service with your brief (keep a copy for yourself) by the deadline.
  • The other side (prosecuting attorney, called "the respondent") may respond with its own brief; however, the respondent is not required to file a brief.

If you are served with the respondent's brief, you have the right file a "reply brief" which replies to the "respondent's brief." You do not have to file a reply brief, but if you want to, you have to serve and file it within 20 days of being served with the respondent's brief.

6. Oral Argument

Once briefs are served and filed or deadline has passed, the court will let you know about the date for oral argument in your case.

  • Oral argument is the parties' chance to explain their arguments to the appellate judges in person.
  • You do NOT have to have oral argument if you don't want to – you can let the appellate division know that you want to "waive" oral argument.
  • If both sides waive (give up) oral argument, the judges will decide your appeal based on the briefs and on the record from the trial court.
  • If one side waives oral argument and the other one does not, the judges will hold oral argument with the party that did not waive it.

7. The Appeallate Court's Decision

After the date set for oral argument (whether it actually takes place or not), the judges have 90 days to make a decision on your appeal.

The clerk will mail you a notice of the appellate division's decision.

8. Giving Up Your Appeal

If, at any point during your appeal, you decide that you do not want to continue with it, you must file a written document with the appellate division letting it know that you are giving up (called "abandoning") your appeal. You can use Abandonment of Appeal (Infraction) (Form CR-145).

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