Being charged with a criminal offence and subsequently having to attend court can be a daunting and stressful experience for all involved. We recommend you consider the following tips to ensure you are adequately prepared for your first appearance.
1. Read Your Documentation
If you are charged with a criminal offence, you will receive a copy of the prosecution notice and statement of material facts prior to your first appearance. These documents outline the offence or offences you are charged with and the facts the prosecution allege occurred. It is important that you carefully read these documents to help you make an informed decision about how you wish to proceed.
2. Are You Pleading Guilty or Not Guilty?
The decision to plead guilty or not guilty is up to you. Before deciding what to plead you may want to think about the strength of the prosecution’s case and the chances of you being found not guilty if you go to a hearing or trial. A criminal defence lawyer can assist you with making an informed decision as to whether to plead guilty or not guilty
If you decide to plead not guilty, you will need to formulate a defence.
If you plan to plead guilty, try to plead at the earliest opportunity. The earlier the plea is made, the greater the reduction in the sentence received. Your case may go ahead on the same day or your case may be adjourned for you to prepare for your sentencing. Even if you decide to plead guilty, a lawyer can help you to get the best possible outcome in sentencing.
3. Decide Whether You Want to be Represented by a Criminal Lawyer
A criminal lawyer can assist you by explaining:
- the details of the charge;
- the range of penalty the charge attracts;
- your legal rights and responsibilities;
- whether the charge must be dealt with by a superior court; and
- the consequences of pleading guilty or not guilty.
If you are charged with a serious offence and your case is to be heard in the District Court or Supreme Court, you are required to have legal representation.
4. Ensure You Attend Court
Your court summons should state the time and date you are to attend court. It is important you attend your court appearance as failure to do so can result in a warrant for your arrest being issued.
On the day of your hearing ensure you:
- are dressed appropriately;
- are on time;
- have arranged childcare if needed; and
- are prepared to wait until your matter is called.
5. What to Expect at Your First Appearance
When you arrive at court report to the front counter and determine what court room you are in. Generally, you are then required to wait until your matter is called by the clerk. If you are represented by a lawyer, they will speak on your behalf. If you choose to represent yourself, you will need to proceed to the bar table once your matter is called. You are then required to either enter a plea or adjourn the matter to enable you to receive legal advice.
This short article provides a general information about the subject matter. We recommend seeking professional legal advice from a lawyer experienced in criminal law about your specific circumstances.
At Frichot & Frichot we are dedicated to providing clients with comprehensive and professional legal advice. If you or someone you know requires assistance with their criminal proceedings, contact Frichot & Frichot today or complete the form below to request an introductory consultation.