Going to Court in NSW
This is a brief guide for those who are appearing before the Court in New South Wales for the first time. It is important to remember that unlike other formal settings, very real and serious consequences can be incurred if you fail to act appropriately.
This list is not exhaustive, however, should provide you with some helpful tips for when you attend any Court for the first time.
1) Understand your Charge(s) and the Maximum Penalties
- Depending on what you have been charged with the penalties for specific offences vary greatly.
- This can vary from fines to terms of imprisonment.
- If you do not know, it is important that you seek legal advice.
2) Know how to Plead
In any criminal matter, you can either plead Guilty or Not Guilty. On the first time, the matter is before the Court you will be asked by the Magistrate how you wish to plead (there can be some exceptions to this general rule):
PLEA OF NOT GUILTY
- If you did not commit the offence or have a lawful defence (such as self-defence) you should enter a plea of Not Guilty.
- This means that your matter will not be heard on the first occasion.
- Your matter will be set down for a hearing date where you will be required to give evidence and call witnesses in your defence.
- Depending on how busy the court is and how complicated your matter, this may be several months away.
PLEA OF GUILTY
- This is when you admit to committing the offence.
- Your matter may be dealt with on that day, otherwise, you can ask for an adjournment to seek legal representation or gather subjective material.
- If your matter is to be dealt with on that first occasion, you will be given an opportunity by the Magistrate/Judge to provide an explanation.
3) Be Prepared
Nothing frustrates the Court more than defendants that are not prepared. The Court is a formal place that requires documentation and evidence. If you have subjective material to tender, have three copies, one for the Magistrate/Judge, one for the prosecutor and one for yourself. Examples of subjective material include:
- Character references;
- Doctor certificates;
- Letters of apology;
- Photographs or maps;
- Receipts or invoices; and
- Certificates of completion of programmes.
3) General Etiquette
In the formal setting of a Courtroom, it is important to conduct yourself appropriately. Failure to do so can result in being ejected from the Court, fines and even imprisonment. Some helpful tips on etiquette include:
- Treat the Magistrate/Judge with respect;
- Be punctual – matters are usually all listed to begin at either 9:00 am or 9:30 am depending on the Court location and hours of operation;
- Appropriate attire – smart casual or business attire is best;
- No use of profanities (unless if asked by the Court to repeat exactly what has been said);
- Personal hygiene – clean clothes and self;
- Patience – be prepared to sit there quietly for a lengthy period;
- Turn off your mobile phone; and
- No food or drink in the Courtroom.
If you have a matter listed before the Court and you were considering representing yourself, we suggest that you contact Armstrong Legal before doing so. It is very likely that you may need some legal advice that is timely and accurate. This can save you time, money and the embarrassment of a difficult court appearance.
Please feel free to contact Armstrong Legal Criminal Team on 1300 038 223 for an obligation free consultation.
WHERE TO NEXT?
If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.