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Pleading Guilty to Drug Charges in the Local Court

All drug possession and self administer drug charges will be finalised in the Local Court of New South Wales. However, charges of supply, manufacture, cultivate and import drug charges may be dealt with in the District Court. This article outlines what happens when pleading guilty to drug charges in NSW.

What Happens at Court if I’m Pleading Guilty to Drug Charges and I Represent Myself?

If you have been charged with drug offence and you are planning to plead guilty, you will have to come to court prepared. Make sure you arrive on time and are neatly dressed. You will need to advise court staff that you are there. If you are unrepresented you will be told to sit near or in the courtroom and wait until your name is called. The time on your Court Attendance Notice is likely to be 9.30am but often matters involving unrepresented defendants are not reached until the afternoon, so it is best to avoid making any plans on the date of your court appearance.

Once your name is called, you will walk to the front of the courtroom to a microphone. Do not sit at the bar table. You will then be asked to enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty. If you are pleading guilty, you must say this very clearly to the Magistrate. Address the Magistrate only as “Your Honour”. The police prosecutor will then hand up the police facts (which should be the same as the facts attached to your court attendance notice) and your antecedents (any prior record that you may have). After the Magistrate has read these you will have an opportunity to speak and to hand up any documents you may have (such as character references).

When speaking to the Magistrate be sure to address him or her appropriately. Be truthful to the court. The Magistrate has years of experience and can easily spot someone who is making excuses or is not being totally honest.

Following anything the Magistrate having read your documents and you having spoken he or she will then consider your sentence for a few moments. Be sure to pay attention to what they say at that point, as it is very important that you know what you are required to do. If you have any questions speak to the Court officer after your matter has finished. If you are unhappy with the outcome do not try to fight with the Magistrate. You have the right to appeal the sentence to the District Court within 28 days.

Do not try to trivialize your offence or argue with the Magistrate. This will be seen as disrespectful.

Should I get a solicitor?

There are many advantaged to having legal representation when pleading guilty to drug offences. A good criminal lawyer knows what issues the court wants to hear addressed and can make submissions directed to the issues. Just as importantly, a good criminal lawyer knows what a court does not want to hear and will not say things that are likely to anger the Magistrate and make things worse.

A good criminal lawyer knows the sentencing law well and how to use it to your advantage.

A good criminal lawyer will bring you to life in a way that will help make your situation to stand out from the crowd rather than blend in with the numerous other matters at court on the day. A good criminal lawyer will advise you of whether there are character references or other supporting documentation that could be tendered in your defence to assist the court to understand all of the mitigating factors in your case.

Retaining a lawyer also shows the court that you are taking the matter seriously.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Michelle Makela

This article was written by Michelle Makela

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

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