You have a Court Attendance Notice, now what? Timeline of a criminal charge in the local court
If you have received a Court Attendance Notice, it will tell you what you are accused of in terms of laws you are alleged to have broken and it will tell you which local court you must attend, on what date.
First court mention and entering a plea
You will usually be required in court for the first mention a few weeks after receiving the Court Attendance Notice. Use this time to engage a solicitor and consider how you want to plead: guilty or not guilty.
Generally, the first time before the court you will be expected to enter your pleas, or if you have not yet obtained legal advice, you can seek to adjourn the matter for a week or two in order to seek legal advice.
Attending courses prior to sentencing
If you enter a plea of guilty, you can proceed to sentencing on the day or have the matter adjourned to allow time to attend appropriate courses, like the Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (MERIT) course, traffic offender intervention program (TOIP) or a domestic violence course (such as those run by Relationships Australia), in order to prepare adequately for sentencing.
While attending a course of this type is voluntary, providing a magistrate with evidence that you have attended such a course may act as a mitigating factor in sentencing.
What happens if you plead not guilty?
If you are pleading not guilty, then an order is made for the service of the police brief of evidence, which is everything the police have in their case against you.
In some matters, you may have to attend court for a reply date to confirm that you have received everything in the police brief of evidence. A hearing date will usually be provided when a plea of not guilty is entered, or at the reply date.
Be prepared for your matter to be adjourned
Even though your matter has a date for hearing, you should be prepared for it to be adjourned or not reached on the day, due to the unpredictable nature of criminal law and advocacy. Delays can occur for a variety of reasons, such as a sick witness, another case having priority over yours or a complication in gathering evidence that requires the matter to be moved to another date.
Hearing and sentencing
At the hearing you will be found either guilty or not guilty. If found guilty, you will most likely be expected to proceed to sentencing on the day.
It is advisable that you have legal representation for all stages of a criminal proceeding.