Getting Charged and Your First Day in Court
It can be an extremely stressful experience being charged with a Criminal or Traffic offence, and being required to attend Court to answer those charges. Generally, the first question you need to ask yourself is whether you should plead guilty or not guilty to the charge/s that you are facing.
The first obvious thing to do when charged with a criminal or traffic offence is to seek expert legal advice from an experienced specialist criminal defence lawyer. Most criminal law firms will be happy to give you some free legal advice, even if you can’t afford a lawyer and intend on representing yourself. At the least you will be able to get a fair idea about the court process.
For less serious charges that are dealt with in a NSW Local Court, on the first day of court you will often be required to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you have not yet obtained legal advice, and need some time to do so, the Magistrate will likely grant you an adjournment to seek legal advice. If you are representing yourself, you will need a different reason for an adjournment.
For serious criminal charges, you will often not be required to enter a plea on the first day of your court hearing. Very often in serious criminal law proceedings, you will be entitled to discover what the evidence is against you before entering a plea of guilty or not guilty to the charge/s. The magistrate will often advise you to obtain legal advice when facing serious criminal charges.
Should I Plead Guilty to the Charge?
If, after you have sought legal advice on your criminal or traffic charges, you decide to plead guilty to the charge/s, you need to start preparing your case for sentencing. Whilst there is a wealth of information online about representing yourself in criminal proceedings, it is not advisable to do so. Criminal Defence Lawyers are experienced in knowing how to effectively communicate with Magistrates and Judges when presenting your case at sentencing. You may need documentary evidence to support your case, or you may need to present witness accounts of what happened to properly present your case. It is important to understand the benefits of pleading guilty, the discount on your sentence if you plead guilty, and the other mitigating circumstances that you can raise at a sentencing hearing to support your case for leniency.
Should I Plead Not Guilty?
There can be many benefits of pleading not guilty to a criminal or traffic charge. Put simply, if the prosecution cannot prove each and every element of the offence charged, “beyond reasonable doubt”, you will likely be found not guilty of the offence/s. If, after considering the legal advice you have obtained from a criminal defence lawyer, you decide to plead not guilty to the offence, you need to start preparing your defence. It is important that your defended hearing is prepared early, well before the final hearing date. It is crucial that you have a criminal lawyer represent you in your hearing or trial in the Local Court, District or Supreme Court. The rules of evidence that apply in defended hearings can be complex and often extremely difficult for self represented defendants to understand.
Negotiating with Police to Reduce the Charge
Very often the Police have simply laid the incorrect charge or the evidence supports a lessor charge. Sometimes it can be very beneficial to a defendant and the Prosecution to negotiate the charges and have lessor charges laid that are more appropriate charges, supported by the evidence. Once again, it is important that you have a criminal lawyer negotiate charges on your behalf. Courts generally look favourably upon the defence and the prosecution taking part in plea negotiations, as it saves the court the time and resources in hearing defended proceedings.
At LY Lawyers, we can provide you with a free phone or in person consultation. Call us 24/7 on 1300 595 299