Going to court can be a terrifying experience.
Whilst the people in the court room are speaking English, it may appear to those unfamiliar with the process and characters that an entirely different language is being spoken. And yet, the essence of the process is very simple, it’s just the execution of the process that is difficult.
When you go to court, as a defendant you need to understand precisely what you have been charged with and the consequences that can flow from a guilty or not guilty plea. Have you read the law on the subject, do you know what the particular Act and section say about this offence? Do you know what sentencing options are available to the court? They are not always the same.
If you have decided to plead guilty, have you prepared what you want the court to hear? Is it in a form that the court can receive it? Is it admissible?
Are you able to explain how the offending came about? Are you able to explain why it came about? Are you going to be able to satisfy the court that you are not going to offend again? How do you plan to do that?
Have you got your reports ready? Have you got your references ready? Have you written an apology? What steps are in place to pay compensation, restitution or reparation?
Do you have the confidence to stand in front of a court, with the eyes of the public gallery watching and listening to you and the judge hanging on your every word, while the prosecutor waits for you to slip and falter so they can object to your material and words.
Standing before a court is a lonely place. All eyes and ears are on you: one false step and what you meant to say can come out wrong and put the court offside. Suddenly, inadvertently, you may have created a reason for the court to reject your version. To reject your story. You have just become “just another” person before the court.
If you are intending to deny the allegation against you, do you understand brief service process? Is there a need for the police to serve a brief on you? Or will you get the brief at court on the day of your hearing? The “brief” is the police evidence. If it is served on you on the day of the hearing, do you understand the rules of admissibility? Have you got your expert lined up to give evidence, or even just your witnesses?
If the matter needs to go to the District Court, do you understand the issues to participate in the Early Appropriate Guilty Plea legislative scheme (everyone must)? Do you understand the committal process? Do you know what subpoena you will need to issue or what requests for particulars should be sent?
It is important when you go before the court, if you want to achieve the best possible result, to have received reliable, dependable expert advice on the matters you are charged with in your particular circumstance in this particular situation. No two matters are completely the same.
Your preparation for court should commence immediately you find you are going to have to attend. You should find a lawyer you trust. Someone who is experienced in the criminal or traffic law field, someone who is an experienced advocate, who will not shy away from difficult arguments, who know the ins and outs of the legislation and evidential issues and the personalities of the court room.
You can represent yourself, and in some cases that may be your only option. But you are strongly recommended to seek advice before you do. You will get one chance to make an impression to the court and you need it to be a good one.
If you face an offence allegation, be it an infringement notice or something that requires you to attend court, and you would like assistance to understand your options, J Sutton Associates, have a NSW Law Society recognised Accredited Specialist in criminal law, with decades of experience acting for people and appearing before the court. Call 02 8080 8055 for personalised advice and service.