Appearing in court
You'll first appear to enter a plea. If you plead not guilty, you'll appear again at a later date. If you plead guilty, you'll either be sentenced immediately or appear later for sentencing.
You're charged with an offence
A criminal case begins when the police, or other prosecuting authority, accuse you of breaking the law.
You'll either be arrested and held in prison, or sent a court summons.
Get a lawyer
Whatever you've been charged with, it's a good idea to get legal help.
If you can't afford a lawyer, you can apply for legal aid to help pay for one.
For minor charges, you may be able to use a duty lawyer at court on the day you've been told to appear. You should show up early to court to make sure you have time to talk to the duty lawyer.
Your first appearance in court
Most cases will be at your local District Court. Serious charges will be heard in a High Court. Youth Court deals with young people who commit crimes that are too serious to be dealt with by community Police.
Your summons or Notice of Bail will let you know when you need to be at court.
If you plead guilty, you might be sentenced straight away, or you might be told to come back again on another date. If you plead not guilty, you'll have a hearing and/or a trial at a future date — you'll be told when to come back.
If there's a trial
There are 2 types of trials:
- judge alone
- judge and jury.
Whether there's a jury at your trial depends on the type of crime you're charged with.
All trials follow the same stages:
- judge’s opening remarks
- the prosecution’s case
- the defence’s case
- closing speeches and summing up
- jury considers the case and makes a decision
After the verdict
If you’ve pleaded guilty or you have been found guilty, you’ll be sentenced. If you're found not guilty or discharged without conviction, you'll be free to go.
If you’re convicted of a crime, you'll usually need to pay:
- court costs of up to $130 on each charge
- an offender levy of $50.
If you're found guilty, the judge might ask for extra reports to help them decide what sentence to give you.
While you wait to find out your sentence, you might be held on remand in prison, or you'll be remanded to live at a specified address.
Serve your sentence
For minor charges, most people serve a community sentence, such as home detention or community work. For more serious charges, you may be sent to prison.