​ሕግንና ደንብን በተመለከተ እርዳታ ማግኘት ይፈልጋሉን? - Amharic | هل تحتاج لمساعدة قانونية؟ - Arabic | ܤܢܝܼܩܵܐ ܝ݇ܘ̤ܬ ܠܗܲܝܵܪܬܵܐ ܩܵܢܘܿܢܵܝܬܵܐ؟ - Assyrian | Need Legal Help? - Auslan | Treba li vam pravna pomoc? - Bosnian | Burmese â Need Legal Help? | 需要法律帮助吗? - Chinese Simplified | 需要法律幫助嗎? - Chinese Traditional | Trebate li pravnu pomoć? - Croatian | ضرورت به کمک قانونی دارید؟ - Dari | Wïc Kuɔɔny në Wɛ̈t Löŋ? - Dinka | آیا به کمک حقوقی نیاز دارید؟ - Farsi | Gadreva na Veivuke Vakalawa? - Fijian | Kailangan ninyo ba ng tulong na panglegal? - Filipino | Besoin d’aide juridique ? - French | Χρειάζεστε βοήθεια σε νομικά ζητήματα - Greek | क्या आपको कानूनी सलाह चाहिए? - Hindi | Butuhkan Bantuan dalam Masalah Hukum? - Indonesian | Hai bisogno di assistenza legale? - Italian | ត្រូវការជំនួយលើបញ្ហាផ្លូវច្បាប់ឬទេ? - Khmer | 법적인 도움이 필요하십니까? - Korean | Ви треба ли помош со правни работи? - Macedonian | कानूनी सहयोग चाहिएको छ? - Nepalese | Necessita de ajuda com questões jurídicas? - Portuguese | Вам нужна юридическая помощь? - Russian | E Manaomia Fesoasoani i Mea Tau Tulafono? - Samoan | а ли вам треба помоћ у правним питањима? - Serbian | Ma u baahan tahay Caawimmad xagga sharciga ah?- Somali | ¿Necesita ayuda con cuestiones jurídicas? - Spanish | சட்ட உதவி தேவையா? - Tamil | ท่านต้องการความช่วยเหลือทางด้านกฎหมายไหม? - Thai | Fiema’u ha tokoni Fakalao? - Tongan | Yasal Danışmaya İhtiyacınız mı var? - Turkish | Cần Được Giúp Đỡ Về Luật Pháp? - Vietnamese |

Frequently asked questions

​​Driving offences and crime - FAQs ​

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​​​​​1. A police officer stopped me and said I was speeding more than 45 km/h over the speed limit. The officer gave me a court attendance notice (CAN) and suspended my licence on the spot. Is there any way I can get my licence back before I go to court?

It is possible to appeal to the Local Court against the suspension. You should get legal advice about whether it is worth appealing in your circumstances.

The court will consider your need for a licence and whether there are exceptional circumstances justifying lifting the suspension. The court will not look at whether you are guilty or innocent of the offence, but can look at the strength of the police case against you. 

Icon - alertYou must file your appeal within 28 days of the date you were suspended.

For more information, including a step by step guide on how to appeal, see Losing your licence.


​​2. The police confiscated my number plates last night because they said I was street racing. My car is still by the side of the road with no number plates. What can I do now?

You cannot drive your car without number plates. If you need to move your car (because of parking restrictions or safety) you will have to arrange for it to be towed. You cannot drive your car until the end of the confiscation period and you get your plates back.

You can apply to the Local Court to have the plates released before the end of the confiscation period. The court will consider:

  • whether it is reasonably likely that the vehicle will be used for hoon offences again, or
  • any extreme hardship caused to someone other than the registered owner because the vehicle or number plates have been taken away.

For more information and a step by step guide on making an application to the court, see Losing your car or number plates.

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​3. Can I go to prison for a driving offence?

Some serious driving offences can result in imprisonment. For example, if you are convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or refusing a breath analysis, the court can sentence you to prison.

Icon - alertIf you have been charged with a driving offence you should get legal advice about what sentence you may be given if convicted.

For more information, see Driving offences.

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​4. I was convicted of mid-range PCA and disqualified from driving for nine months. Am I allowed to drive in another state?

If you are disqualified from driving by a court in NSW, Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) will be notified and will note the disqualification on your driving record. RMS exchange information with their state and territory counterparts, so it's likely that if you drive in another state that state may be aware of the disqualification. Whether you are able to drive will depend on that state's laws.

If you are disqualified in NSW and want to drive in another state or territory, you should check with the transport authority in that state or territory.


​5. What is a defence to a crime?

A defence is an explanation or reason that suggests you should not be found guilty of a charge. A defence can be a denial that you did what the prosecutor says you did.

If you say you had a legal excuse or justification for your actions, this may also be a defence. Common examples of legal defences include:

  • genuine accidents
  • honest and reasonable mistake of fact
  • self-defence or defence of another person
  • necessity or duress (where you are forced to do something to avoid something much worse happening)
  • you had a legal right to do what you did.

Working out whether you have a defence to a charge can be very difficult. You should get legal advice about the circumstances of your case as soon as you can.

For more information, see Criminal offences.

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6. Who can charge me with a crime?

You can be charged by the police, but you can also be charged by any other government body that has the authority to do so. For example, you can be charged by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) or the RSPCA.

For more information, see Criminal offences. ​

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Responding to a charge - FAQs

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​1. The police told me they weren't going to charge me but now I've received a court attendance notice (CAN). Can they do this?

The police can change their mind and send you a court attendance notice even if they have told you they would not.

For some offences the police must issue a court attendance notice within six months after the offence was committed. If you receive a court attendance notice that was issued more than six months after an offence, you should get legal advice.


​2. Why have I got so many charges listed on my CAN?

You may have more than one charge listed on the CAN because:

  • the police say you have committed several different criminal offences, and/or
  • the police have charged you with one or more 'back up offences'.

You might be charged with a 'back up offence' if more than one offence fits the police facts.

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3.​ I got the days wrong and missed court. The magistrate convicted me and gave me a fine. What can I do now?

If you have a good reason to explain why you couldn't attend court, you can apply to have the decision annulled (cancelled). You can file an Annulment Application at any local court, but your application will be dealt with by the same court that convicted you.

If the magistrate accepts your explanation, the decision will be annulled and your case re-heard.

For more information, see If you miss court.

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4. I received ​a court attendance notice in the mail. Do I have to go to court?

If you are given a court attendance notice, or are sent one in the mail, you should attend court on the date it says. If you don't attend court, a magistrate can find you guilty and sentence you, and can even issue a warrant for your arrest.If you can't make it to court, you can send in a Written Notice of Pleading. This tells the court if you are pleading guilty or not guilty, and provides further information to the court.

If you want to go to court but can't make it on the day, you can ask for an adjournment. You should write to the court and explain why you can't make it.

Icon - alertIf you are on bail and you don't go to court, it is very likely that you will be breaching your bail conditions. 

For more information, see Responding to a charge.

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5. What if the d​etails on the CAN are incorrect?

If you have a court attendance notice and it has incorrect details, it does not mean it is automatically invalid. At times, mistakes may be made on the notice, for example, an incorrect address listed, an incorrect date of birth, or misspelling of a surname. These errors do not automatically make the court attendance notice invalid.

You should read the notice carefully to check the offence details, as this is what you are charged with and what will be dealt with at court.

In some cases, if you raise incorrect details on your notice as an issue at court, the charges may be amended, or a new notice issued.

If you think the offence details are incorrect, for example, the offence is different to what you were told by a police officer, get legal advice.


Pleading guilty - FAQs

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1. I have been charged with driving an unregistered vehicle and I want to plead guilty. The court is a long way from where I live and it's difficult for me to get there. Can I get my case moved to a court closer to my home?

You can contact the court where your case is listed and ask them to transfer your matter to a court closer to where you live. The court may ask you to put your request in writing.

In the letter you should state that:

  • you intend to plead guilty
  • you want to appear before the court in person
  • you have difficulty getting to the court and why, for example, you live more than 100 km from the court and you don't have a car
  • you would like your matter to be listed at another court closer to your home or work.

Usually your letter will be placed on the court file for the magistrate to read on your court date. The magistrate will decide whether to move your matter to another court. You should contact the court on your court date to check if the magistrate adjourned your matter to a different court.

You could also consider whether you can plead guilty by using a Written Notice of Pleading instead of attending in person. You need to send the form to the court at least seven days before your court date.

Icon - alertIf you are on bail and you do not attend court, it is very likely that you will be breaching your bail conditions.

For more information see Pleading guilty.

Icon - alertYou should get legal advice about whether to plead guilty or not guilty to a charge before contacting the court.

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2. I have b​een charged with low range PCA. I know I broke the law and I don't mind paying a fine but I can't afford to lose my licence because I'm a professional truck driver.

When you go to court, you can tell the magistrate about why you need your licence. You may also want to give the magistrate a letter from your employer that explains why you need your licence. You could enrol in the Traffic Offenders Intervention Program, and if you complete it the court can take that into consideration as well.

If you have pleaded guilty to an offence that has a mandatory licence disqualification period, the magistrate must disqualify you for at least a minimum period, unless no conviction is recorded against you (called a 'section 10 dismissal'). If you get a section 10 dismissal you will also not have to pay a fine. You should get legal advice about your case to see what sentence you might get.

For more information, see Preparing for court.


3. I pleaded guilty​​ to possession of a prescribed substance but now I want to change my plea to not guilty. Can I do this?

There must be exceptional circumstances for your plea to be changed from guilty to not guilty. Exceptional circumstances could include where you:

  • were unrepresented when you entered your guilty plea
  • did not understand the charge/s and did not get any legal advice
  • were pressured or threatened to plead guilty.

If you want to do this, you should get legal advice.


4. I'm very nervo​​us about speaking to the magistrate when I make my submissions. Can I write them down and give them to the magistrate?

It is best to speak to the magistrate directly. If you think you will have a problem speaking in court you can prepare some short written submissions and give these to the magistrate at court to read. The prosecutor will have the chance to look at your written submissions before they are handed to the magistrate. The magistrate may still want to ask you some questions.

For more information, see Preparing for court.


5. I've been charged​ with possession of cannabis. I want to plead guilty but the police factsheet says stuff about me that is not true. Can I do anything about this?

After you tell the magistrate you want to plead guilty, the prosecutor will give the magistrate the police factsheet. The magistrate will assume that you agree with what is in the police factsheet.

If you don't agree with what is in the police factsheet, you can write to the police before court and ask them to change it. You can also talk to the prosecutor at court about whether they would agree to change the factsheet. If the police refuse to change the factsheet you can have a hearing on the facts.

For more information, see Negotiating with the police.


6. Before I got charged my previous boss gave me a re​​ally good reference. Can I use the reference when I go to court for my low range drink driving offence?

Character references for court usually need to be written in a particular way, and it is best that the person writing it states that they are aware of the reason you have to go to court. It may be a good idea to ask your previous boss to write a new character reference for you. For more information, see Your documents.

If you cannot contact your previous boss or they cannot for some reason write you a new character reference, you should get legal advice about whether you should use the character reference in court.

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7. I was caught shoplifting and I have to go to court. I've​ had problems with illegal drugs for a long time. Will this count against me in court?

When the magistrate decides what penalty to give you they will take into account anything you say about your personal circumstances, including your drug and alcohol history. You should get legal advice about what you should say to the magistrate about your problems with illegal drugs.

You may want to consider a referral to the MERIT program (Magistrate's Early Referral into Treatment program). This program helps defendants with substance abuse issues to work towards rehabilitation. If you successfully complete the program, the magistrate will usually take this into account and you may receive a more lenient sentence.

For more information see Intervention programs.

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Pleading not guilty - FAQs

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1. I have been charged with common assault and I want to plead not guilty. I live in Sydney but my case is listed in Byron Bay Local ​Court. Can I get my case moved down to Sydney?

If you pleaded not guilty, your case usually won't be moved to another court. This is because the prosecution may want to call witnesses, including police officers, to give evidence at your hearing. Usually the witnesses live or work near to the court where your matter is listed and it will cost them time and money to travel to another court.

In some cases you can enter a not guilty plea in writing instead of going to court. Usually this means you will only need to attend court on the hearing date. You should get legal advice before pleading not guilty in writing.

For more information, see Pleading not guilty.


2. I was charged with negligent driving after I had a car acci​dent but I don't think I was negligent because of the bad condition of the road. How can I prove that to the court?

The road conditions won't necessarily mean that you weren't negligent. It depends on the circumstances. Think carefully about what evidence you can gather to support your case. You can use all sorts of evidence at the hearing, including:

  • evidence from witnesses
  • photographs
  • diagrams
  • in car video (ICV)
  • closed circuit television (CCTV) footage.

You should get legal advice on your evidence.

For more information, see Preparing for the hearing.


3. I have pleaded not guilty to an offence and I'm g​etting ready for the hearing but I haven't received a brief of evidence from the police. Why haven't I got one?

The police do not have to provide you with a brief of evidence for some offences. You should get legal advice about whether the police have to serve a brief of evidence on you for the offence you were charged with.

If the magistrate ordered the police to serve a brief of evidence on you and you do not receive it more than two weeks before the date of the hearing, you should get legal advice about what you should do.

For more information, see Preparing for the hearing.


4. I am pleading not guilty to a charge of 'resist arrest'. When I was arrested I saw a person standing nearby who I think saw the wh​ole incident. How can I get in touch with this person?

If the magistrate ordered a brief of evidence be served on (given to) you, you can check if any of the witnesses could be the same person you saw standing nearby or if they refer to someone else standing nearby.

You can also contact the officer in charge of the investigation, ask other people who may know the person or apply to the police for a copy of the incident report. You could also try a notice in local newspapers or on community noticeboards in the area.

Icon - alertBefore talking to the police about any witnesses, you should get legal advice.

 For more information, see Witnesses.


5. I pleaded not guilty to a charge of 'supply methamphetamine'. I've received the brief​​ of evidence and now I want to change my plea to guilty. Can I do this?

You can change your plea to guilty before or at the hearing. You do not need the permission of the court to do this but you should tell the prosecutor or the police officer in charge of your case as soon as possible after you know you want to change your plea.

Icon - alertYou should get legal advice before changing your plea.

For more information, see Changing your plea.


6. The prosecutio​n have called my mum as a witness in my hearing. Can they do this?

The prosecution can usually call any person to give evidence as a witness and the witness must comply with any subpoena to attend court.

If the prosecution's witness is your parent, spouse, de facto partner or child, they will still have to attend court but they may tell the magistrate they object to giving evidence (answering questions). The magistrate will then decide whether the witness should answer any questions, taking into account a number of factors, including the harm caused to your relationship with the witness if they were to give evidence.


7. I have plead​ed not guilty to a charge of 'destroy/damage property'. The magistrate said my matter will be 'in for reply' in six weeks time. What does this mean?

If the magistrate ordered the police to serve (give) a brief of evidence on you, they may set a date for another mention before the hearing takes place. On this date, you will have a chance to 'reply' to the brief of evidence. The magistrate will usually want to know:

  • if the entire brief of evidence has been served, and if not, what's missing
  • if you want any of the prosecution's witnesses to attend the hearing so you can cross-examine (question) them.

For more information see Preparing for the hearing.


8. I have pleaded not guilty to a charge of 'enter inclosed lands'. I'm pretty sure one of the witnesses for the prosecution has a ​criminal record. How can I get a copy of it?

You can contact the police prosecutor or the officer in charge of the investigation and ask them if they will give you a copy. You can also issue a subpoena to police to produce the witness's criminal record. For more information see Subpoenas.

Icon - alertBefore you try to get a copy of the criminal record, you should get legal advice about whether it is a good idea to question the witness about it.


After court - FAQs ​

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1. I got a Notice of Penalty after I went to court. I kne​w I had to pay a fine, but there are these other costs added. What are they?

The magistrate will usually order that you have to pay court costs as well as any fine or other penalty. The costs you may have to pay are:

  • court costs levy
  • victims support levy
  • prosecutor's costs.

For more information, see Paying costs.


2. I was convicted of negligent driving. Do I have a po​lice record? Do I need to tell people when I am applying for jobs?

When a person is found guilty of an offence in court and convicted, a record of this conviction is kept. This is what it means to 'have a record'. Where the conviction is recorded depends on the seriousness of the offence.

  • Your driving record is a list of all traffic offences that you have committed in New South Wales.
  • Your criminal record is a list of offences where you have been found guilty and convicted. It also includes traffic offences that are serious (like drink driving, driving while disqualified).

A negligent driving conviction (where there was no injury to a person) may only appear on your driving record. If you are unsure about whether a charge will go on your criminal record or not, you should get legal advice.

For more information, see Driving and criminal records.

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3. I got a lett​er from Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) saying I was a Habitual Traffic Offender and I was disqualified from driving for five years. What is this about and what can I do about it?

If you are convicted of three serious driving offences in the past five years, Roads and Maritime Service (RMS) will make a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) declaration.

A HTO declaration means that you will be disqualified from driving for a period of time in addition to the amount of time you were disqualified for the offence. A habitual traffic offender declaration is usually made for five years. A HTO period of disqualification is added to other periods of disqualification.

It is possible to get the HTO declaration quashed. This means that the declaration is set aside and you will not be disqualified for the extra period.

To do this you need to make an application to the Local Court. The court will look at whether the HTO declaration was unjust and whether it was out of proportion to the circumstances. The court will take into account:

  • your driving history
  • your need for a licence
  • your record and
  • any special circumstances.

For information about how to make an application see Getting a HTO declaration quashed. ​


4. I was convicted of possession of a prohibited substance and received a large fine. I don't think I can pay it. What ca​n I do?

If you think the fine was too high given your circumstances, you can appeal to the District Court. An appeal must be filed within 28 days of the decision. It is possible to only appeal the severity of the sentence.

Icon - alertYou should get legal advice before you appeal. The District Court can also increase the fine when deciding your appeal.

For more information, see Appeals. ​