​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 |

Preparing for Court

Going to court can be confusing and you may be nervous. The best way to make sure you are prepared for court is to be organised.

Icon: Page with numbered list  Preparing for court - Step by step guide

Before you go to court, you should:

​​​Step 1: Get legal advice

You should arrange to get some legal advice as soon as possible, as it may take some time before you can speak to a lawyer. A lawyer can help you decide what documents to prepare and what to say to the magistrate.

For more information, see legal advice.

Icon: HintIf you are pleading guilty to a drink driving offence, there is a useful online resource called  'Guilty your honour'. You can access it from the LIAC website.

S​tep 2: Confirm your court date, time and location

You should make sure you write down your court date and time. You should also check the address of the court. This should be on your Court Attendance Notice (CAN) or the Local Court website.

If you cannot go to court on that day you can:

  • ask for the court date to be moved
  • ask for your matter to be moved to a different court house (see step 3)
  • plead guilty in writing (see step 4).

If you miss your court date, or if you are late, the court may make a decision without you (in your absence). If the court makes a decision in your absence, you will not be able to explain your version of events and the court won't be able to take your personal circumstances into consideration.

Icon - alertIf you miss your court date and you are found guilty in your absence, you may be able to apply for an annulment of the decision.

For more information, see If you miss court.

Step 3: Ask to change the court date or location (if you need to)

If you cannot attend court, you should contact the court and explain why. It is a good idea to send something in writing, for example, a letter or fax.

If you are sick you should also send a medical certificate that says that you are not fit to attend court and explains why. You should do this as soon as possible. The court may adjourn (postpone) your case for a period of time, usually one or two weeks.

If you live a long way from the court, you can ask for your case to be moved to a local court nearer to you. The court will only do this if you are pleading guilty.

For more information about changing courts or asking for an adjournment, see The first court date.

Step 4:​ Consider pleading guilty in writing

In some cases you can plead guilty in writing instead of attending court. Before you do this, you should get legal advice. Depending on the circumstances of your case you may still have to go to court.

If you want to plead guilty in writing, you must do so at least seven days before your court date.

For more information, see Pleading guilty in writing.

Step 5: Investigate intervention programs

In some cases you may be able to enrol in a program designed for people who have committed the same, or a similar, offence as you. These programs aim to help you not commit the same offence again. For example, if you have committed a number of traffic offences, you may want to enrol in the Traffic Offender Intervention Program (TOIP) or if you have committed a number of drug related offences, you can consider the Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment Program (MERIT).

Participation in intervention programs can be taken into consideration by a magistrate when deciding what sentence to give you. If you want to enrol in a program but it does not finish until a date after the mention, you can ask the court to adjourn your case to a date after the program finishes.

For more information about the different intervention programs you may be able to do, see Intervention programs.

If you want to find or enrol in any programs related to your offence, you should get legal advice.

Step 6: Prepa​re your submissions

It is a good idea to write down the main points you want to tell the magistrate. These are called 'submissions'. They can be helpful if you forget what to say when you get to court.

If you are nervous about speaking in court, you could:

  • practice speaking to the magistrate with one of your friends or relatives
  • go to a local court and watch some cases. If you ring the court, you can find out the dates and times that sentencing hearings are held. Courts are open to the public and you can sit in the public area at the back of any court and watch
  • put your submissions in writing by preparing a letter to the magistrate.

For a guide of what to include in your submissions, see Your submissions.

Step 7: ​Prepare your documents

When pleading guilty, it is a good idea to get two or three character references. Character references are letters to the magistrate written by referees (people) who know you and can write about your good character. These referees should have a good reputation, should not have a criminal record and must know why you are going to court.

You should also take any evidence you have that supports the things you say in your submissions, for example:

  • Traffic Offender Intervention Program certificate
    If you have done a course like a TOIP you should take a copy of the certificate showing that you finished that course.
  • Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment report
    If you have completed a MERIT program, the magistrate will be sent a report which will have information about how you went in the program. If you want to see the report before your court date, ring MERIT and ask for a copy to be sent to you.
  • Other documents
    Depending on your circumstances, it may also be a good idea to bring medical certificates, receipts, a letter or report from a counsellor and evidence of your income and assets.

For more information about documents the court may take into consideration, see Your documents.

You should take the original and three copies of any documents you intend to show the court. The original will be kept by the court. You will need to give one copy to the police prosecutor, keep one for your records and have a spare.

Step 8: P​lan what to take

You should take the following things with you to court:

  • the CAN
  • the Police Facts Sheet or other documents you have received from the police
  • your submissions or letter to the magistrate
  • your character references
  • any other relevant evidence
  • a notebook and pen to make notes.

For more information about what to do when you get to court, see Going to court

For more information about what might happen at court, you should watch the video below.
 

You can also read a transcript of this video Microsoft Word Icon(39 kb). ​​

​​This video is available with the audio description.​​