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.
For civil cases, they decide on claims of up to $200,000.
In criminal cases they cover minor offences, but can also conduct trials for some serious offences, such as rape and aggravated robbery.
You’re charged with an offence
If police or another prosecuting authority believe you have committed an offence, you might be:
- arrested and given police bail — this means you’ll be released but will have to appear at court when required
- taken to court
- given a summons telling you when you need to go to court.
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.
Your first appearance in court
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.
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 on each charge
- an offender levy.
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.