This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

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...

Preparing for Court


If you are going to enter a plea of guilty at court or are considering entering a plea of guilty, it is very important you are well prepared.

Even a charge which you may consider to be a minor offence could carry a large maximum penalty and the court has a discretion about whether you should or should not receive a conviction on your criminal record.

Traffic offences can also include a period of licence suspension. By preparing thoroughly for court you are increasing your chances of a better outcome.

For All Criminal Law Matters

  • Obtain effective character references
  • Draft a personal statement
  • Engage Armstrong Legal to act for you

For All Traffic Offences

  • Attend a Road Trauma Awareness Seminar

For Assault Matters

  • Complete a course in anger management
  • Receive alcohol counselling if you have an alcohol problem
  • Agree to a final intervention order if one is being sought

For Drug Matters

  • Receive drug counselling if you have a drug problem
  • Attend a Road Trauma Awareness Seminar (drug driving offenders only)

For Intervention Order Matters

  • Ensure that you comply with any interim orders
  • Agree to a final intervention order if you are pleading guilty to an associated charge

Obtain Effective Character References

In our experience, a well-drafted court character reference can have an impact upon the sentence that is imposed by the court. We believe that a court character reference must paint a picture of your character. If your character references don’t help you stand out from the other offenders in court then you will be dealt with just like all the other cases. Most court character references make statements like this “James Brown is hardworking, energetic and generous with his time and money”. We believe that these references have very little impact upon the sentence imposed by the court. As some magistrates and judges comment “I have never read a bad character reference.” But by the use of examples, illustrations and stories a referee can bring your character to life.

Draft a Personal Statement

A personal statement is often the best way to express your remorse for your actions, demonstrate that you have insight into the offence and promise to the court you will not commit more offences in the future. A good personal statement will not shift blame to a victim or deny the facts of the offence. The precise wording of the document is very important. Some personal statements contain sentences like this, “I am sorry for having to come to court”. Such a statement may seem insincere to a magistrate or judge and gives the impression that you are only sorry that you had to come to court. A personal statement should emphasise your remorse to the victim and the community for the offending conduct. Often a thoughtful and unreserved personal statement will help you in achieving a better sentencing outcome.

Attend a Road Trauma Awareness Seminar

Completing a Road Trauma Awareness Seminar demonstrates to the magistrate or judge that you are serious about improving your driving behaviour. The Road Trauma Awareness Seminar is designed to increase people’s understanding of their social obligations, particularly where they relate to traffic laws. When sentencing a traffic offender, a magistrate or judge may take into account any changes of attitude displayed since the offence. The Road Trauma Awareness Seminar is regularly reviewed by the Monash University Accident Research Centre and is regarded highly by the courts. The course is for 2.5 hours and is held throughout Victoria.

Receive Drug Counselling

It is common practise where an offender has a number of drug related offences on their record for a magistrate or judge to question the offender as to whether they have a drug problem. If you do have a drug problem it is wise to have drug counselling to help you abstain from drugs. Under the Sentencing Act 1991 the court must take into account your rehabilitation and how it may be best facilitated.

Complete a Course in Anger Management

Completing a course or counselling sessions in anger management demonstrates to the court that you are serious about ensuring that you will not commit similar offences in the future. Upon completion of the course you should obtain a report from the organisation providing the counselling/training. This course or counselling will also help you in writing your personal statement to the court. You should explain to the court what you have learnt and what strategies you will use in the future so you do not come back before the court.

Receive Alcohol Counselling if you have an Alcohol Problem

It is common practice where an offender has a number of alcohol related offences on their record for a magistrate or judge to question the offender as to whether they have an alcohol problem. If you do have an alcohol problem it is wise to have alcohol counselling to help you abstain from drinking. Under the Act the court must take into account your rehabilitation and how it may be best facilitated.

Agree to a Final Intervention Order

If you are pleading guilty to an assault offence and the victim of the assault (or the police on their behalf) is seeking an intervention order, it is exceptionally difficult to defend an intervention order application. Ordinarily, any application for an intervention order will be listed at court before any criminal charge. If you are considering entering a plea of guilty, it is in your interests to agree to the making of the order (on a by consent and without admissions basis) as it demonstrates to the court that you are keen to ensure that the victim is adequately protected in the future.

However, please note that you may no longer be allowed to possess a firearm licence or firearms if you agree to an intervention order.

Ensure that you Comply with any Interim Orders

If you have been charged with an assault offence, you may also be served with interim orders or a family violence safety notice. It is very important that you read through that document very carefully because any breach of the conditions contained in the document may constitute a criminal offence. Any breach of interim orders or a family violence safety notice indicates to the court that you have no regard for conditions imposed on you and have little regard for the safety of the victim. It is not a defence to any criminal charge if the victim tries to provoke or entice you to breach the conditions.

Engage Armstrong Legal to Act for you

Armstrong Legal has a team of criminal lawyers who specialise in representing clients charged with criminal offences. These lawyers appear daily before all criminal jurisdictions in Victoria.

What this means for you:

  • Your lawyer will know the magistrate or judge and how best to approach them;
  • Your lawyer has specialist knowledge as to what penalties and orders to ask for; and,
  • Your lawyer knows what to say and more importantly what not to say.

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

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.

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