10 Practical tips for self representation in court

  1. Be truthful to the court. Most Magistrates are very experienced and will normally see through made up excuses. You are more likely to get a better result by saying less than making up a story and being caught out lying.
  2. Be prepared. Most people get nervous when they appear for themselves. This may cause you to forget to mention something important. If you have a list of things that you want to tell the court this will help you when things become stressful.
  3. Knowing what not to say is almost as important as what you say. It is difficult to instruct you what not to say. But you should not exaggerate your story as to why you were driving or refer to penalties that friends may have received for similar offences.
  4. Tell the court about your ability to pay a fine including:
  • Your occupation
  • How much you earn each week
  • How much you pay for rent or as a mortgage payment
  • Any other debts you have
  • How many people you support
  1. Tell the court how a criminal conviction may affect your future. If this is your first offence then you might want to advise the court about the following:
  • Whether a criminal record will affect your ability to work now or in the future. You will need to provide some evidence of this if you want the Magistrate to take this seriously.
  • Whether a criminal record would affect your travel plans. If these travel plans have been booked you should provide the court with copies of the booking documents.
  1. Tell the court about your need for a drivers licence. If you are going to lose your job if you lose your licence you should have a letter from your employer saying this clearly. If you drive a lot of kilometres each year you should prove this by either a log book or the car service records. But bear in mind that for some offences such as driving whilst disqualified you are almost certainly going to lose your licence for at least 12 months, regardless of your employment circumstances.
  2. Tell the court about your previous good character. If you have done charity work in the past or you have major achievements in your life you should provide the court with some proof of these.
  3. Hand up well drafted character references. These references should paint a picture of your character. The person writing the reference should give examples of good things you have done. If in the past you have taken steps to stop others driving this should be mentioned.

Let me give you an example of what could be included in a reference to bring your character to life:

“Ben Smith is very generous with his time and his money. I remember driving home and seeing our elderly neighbour struggling to remove graffiti from his fence. Ben went missing for a while and about 1/2 hour later I saw Ben with our elderly neighbour removing the graffiti from the fence with a scrubbing brush and cleaning equipment he had bought from the hardware store. Ben spent the next five hours with our neighbour until it was all removed. This is but one example of how generous Ben is to others.”

  1. Do not speak while the Magistrate is sentencing you, unless you are asked a specific question. This is likely to be seen by the Magistrate as disrespectful.
  2. If you do not like the penalty the Magistrate hands down you should not argue with them. In all driving matters dealt with in New South Wales, Australia you have a right to appeal the sentence of a magistrate to the District Court. You have 28 days to appeal and up to 3 months with the leave of the District Court.

If you would like to seek advice in relation to a driving matter, please do not hesitate to contact one of our traffic lawyers on the number below.


In NSW, traffic offences are treated seriously. Therefore, it is important to get competent legal advice as early as possible, whether you have received a penalty notice, had your licence suspended or been charged with a serious offence. Our lawyers are highly experienced and understand the difficulties you face without a licence. We can guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.


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