Going to Court
When police report, arrest or charge you with a criminal or traffic offence, you will be required to go to Court to answer those charges. It can be difficult to understand how a Court operates and this can cause significant stress. It helps to know in advance a little bit about the process.
If the police have reported you for committing an offence, you will receive a Summons or Court Information form (either by mail or personal service).
If you receive a summons, it will require you or your lawyer to attend Court to answer the charges. If your lawyer appears on your behalf, usually you are not required to attend Court (but this should be confirmed with your lawyer). The summons will detail the charges and provide you with a Court date, time and location.
However, if you have been arrested and released on bail, you must personally appear at the Court on the date specified in your bail agreement. If you fail to appear, the Court may issue a warrant for your arrest.
The Court location will usually be the Court nearest to where the offence is alleged to have been committed.
First court appearance
At the first Court appearance you will be entitled to receive a copy of the Court Information form (formerly known as Court Complaint) and Apprehension Report. You should spend some time to review these documents. If you have instructed a lawyer, you should provide the documents to your lawyer to review.
The Court Information form is a Court document that details the charges against you. It will give details about whether the alleged offence is a summary offence or a minor or major indictable offence.
The Apprehension Report provides a summary of the evidence and the circumstances of the offence as alleged by the police. This will be read to the Court and will form the basis for sentencing if you plead guilty to the charges. It also provides details of the case.
Upon receiving and reviewing the Court Information form and Apprehension Report you are entitled to seek an adjournment for legal advice. An adjournment is a postponement of the case to a later date. The Court will grant you an adjournment and provide you with another date in about 4 weeks’ time.
Major indictable offences
If you are charged with a major indictable offence, the Court will provide you with another hearing date in 12 to 16 weeks. The Magistrates Court does not have the power to finalise major indictable charges at the first hearing.
It is important that you seek advice from an experienced criminal defence lawyer before you decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges against you. A good lawyer can provide advice about a range of issues including:
- The impact of any sentencing discount on your case.
- The impact that any plea may have on your driver’s licence.
- The impact that the charges may have on any police clearances.