Pleading Not Guilty to an Assault Charge in the Local Court
Most assault charges will be finalised in the Local Court. However, the charges of “maliciously inflict grievous bodily harm with intent”, “reckless grievous bodily harm” and “reckless wounding” are likely to be dealt with in the District Court. If you have been charged with any of these offences please contact us and we will explain the court process in the District Court to you.
What Will Happen in Court?
In a not guilty plea, your lawyer from Armstrong Legal will confirm your plea of not guilty to the Registrar at the first court appearance. As you are represented, there may be no need for you to appear at this mention, but your lawyer will confirm this with you. Normally your matter will be adjourned for approximately 4-6 weeks to allow the police enough time to prepare a brief of evidence. A brief of evidence contains all the evidence that the police intend to rely upon at the hearing of the matter. Generally, police are not able to call additional evidence that was not contained in the brief of evidence and served on you 14 days prior to the hearing.
Police do not always serve the brief of evidence upon you by the date allocated by the Registrar. This does not necessarily mean that they will not be able to serve the brief of evidence on you later. Normally, if the police provide a reasonable excuse for not serving the brief upon you, the Registrar will give the police further time to serve it. It may be possible to get your legal costs paid by the Police Force if they do not serve the brief upon you when they should have.
At your second court appearance and if the police have served the brief of evidence upon you and you still want to plead not guilty, your lawyer will ask the Registrar for a hearing date. You will be asked to complete a court listing advice that identifies the witnesses you want to cross examine and your estimate of how long the hearing will take. You may be asked what is in issue.
It is possible to subpoena a person or organisation to produce documents that may help your case. If a subpoena is issued, your lawyer will obtain a further mention date prior to the hearing to allow plenty of time to inspect the documents prior to the hearing.
Procedure at the Hearing
The Test – the Police must prove that you are guilty of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. If the Magistrate has a reasonable doubt than they must dismiss the charge.
The Police Case – the Police Prosecutor who represents the Police will call witnesses to try and prove that you committed the assault offence. Your lawyer may object to questions asked by the Police Prosecutor in certain circumstances. After the Police Prosecutor has finished asking the witness questions your lawyer may cross examine the witness. After your lawyer has finished cross examining the witness the Police Prosecutor will be able to clarify any answers in re examination. After all witnesses have given evidence the Police Prosecutor will close the Police case.
Prima Facie Case – before you are required to answer the Police case, the Magistrate has to decide whether taking the Police case at its highest you could be lawfully convicted of the offence. Your lawyer is able to make submissions to the Magistrate as to why you could not be lawfully convicted.
Submissions – why you should not be convicted – your lawyer can make submissions as to why you should not be convicted of an offence. When considering these submissions the Magistrate can consider all of the evidence whether it assist the police or not (they do not have to consider the police case at it’s best). These submissions can be made without giving evidence.
The Defence Case – If you intend to give evidence, then you normally give evidence first. Your lawyer will ask you a series of questions so that you give all relevant evidence. Try to relax and give evidence as you remember the events. Remember, rehearsed evidence often sounds artificial, so try and be natural.
Submissions – After all witnesses you intended to call have given evidence, your lawyer will make submissions after the Police Prosecutor upon the evidence given. The Magistrate will make their decision on the evidence given and will normally make a decision shortly after submissions are given by both parties. The Magistrate will find you either guilty or not guilty. If you are found not guilty you may be able to claim your legal costs in some limited cases. If you are found guilty you will be sentenced.
Following is a list of penalties that could be imposed by the court if you are found guilty:
- Section 10 (matter proven but dismissed) – no criminal conviction and no loss of licence
- Good behaviour bond – A bond to be of good behaviour
- Community service order – Unpaid work in the community
- Suspended sentence – A prison sentence suspended upon you entering into a good behaviour bond
- Periodic detention – Part time prison sentence either mid week or weekend detention
- Home detention – A prison sentence served at your home
- Prison – Full time custody in a correctional centre