Pleading guilty in writing
If you have received a Court Attendance Notice (CAN), in some cases you may be able to plead guilty in writing instead of going to court. One option is to fill a form called a 'Written Notice of Pleading' and send it to the Court at least seven days before your court date.
Different discounts on penalty apply depending on the type of offence you have been charged with and what stage you have pleaded guilty. You should get legal advice about your specific situation and what the benefit would be in pleading guilty.
Before pleading guilty in writing, you should get
legal advice. The Court may not accept it and may want you to come to court instead.
Who can plead guilty in writing?
You can use a Written Notice of Pleading to plead guilty if:
- you were released without bail, or
- you have elected to go to court.
You can’t file a Written Notice of Pleading if you are on bail, have been refused bail or your bail has been dispensed with. If you are on bail and you can’t attend court in person, you may be able to appear by audio visual link (AVL) or telephone. If you are on bail and you have a lawyer, you may not have to attend court if your lawyer appears on your behalf.
If you are unsure whether you have to attend court, you should get legal advice. If you are required to attend court and you don’t, your case may be decided in your absence or a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
How do you plead guilty in writing?
A Written Notice of Pleading is a form that tells the Court you want to plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty in writing, the Court will make a decision based on what you write in the form and any other documents or information you provide.
You might want to plead guilty in writing if you can't get to court on the date in the CAN. For example, you may:
- live out of state and you can't travel back to NSW to get to court
- have work or other commitments on the court date that you would find hard to break.
You can also send a letter or email to the Court to plead guilty, instead of using the form. The Court has the power to decide whether any letter or email you have sent will be taken as a Written Notice of Pleading.
If you disagree with anything in the Police Facts Sheet and want it changed you may not get the chance to talk to the police prosecutor about it if you file a Written Notice of Pleading.
How do you fill in a Written Notice of Pleading?
A blank form may be sent to you with your CAN. You can also get a copy from:
- your nearest Local Court registry, or
- the Forms page on the Local Court of NSW website.
In your form, you will need to include:
- your name
- the details of the offence listed on your CAN
- the name and address of the Court you are required to attend
- the date you are required to attend court
- information about how and why the offence happened
- information about yourself, including your financial situation, your character and personal circumstances.
You should also attach:
- character references
- any other relevant documents, for example, medical reports.
For information about how to get character references and a full list of the things you can ask the court to consider, see Preparing for court.
You don’t need to sign your form in front of an authorised witness.
If possible it is better to go to court to plead guilty. If you go to court you can explain your version of events and you can answer any questions the Court may have.
Instructions: Instructions for filling out a Written Notice of Pleading - pleading guilty
Sample: Written Notice of Pleading - pleading guilty
How do you file a Written Notice of Pleading?
You can file your completed form with the registry of the Court that is hearing your case:
- in person
- by email
- by post, or
- by fax.
You should send your Written Notice of Pleading to the courts postal address, not the street address that appears on your CAN. You can find the courts postal address on the Court locations, listing and sitting arrangements page on the Local Court of NSW website.
After you have filed your completed form, you should call the registry to check that it was received and placed on your file.
You must make sure the Court has your Written Notice of Pleading at least seven days before the mention date. If they receive it any later, the Court may decide to sentence you without considering it.
Can the Court reject a Written Notice of Pleading?
The Court may reject your Written Notice of Pleading if:
- the explanation provided shows that you disagree with the Police Facts Sheet
- the Court does not want to decide the case without you being there. For example, if the Court decides to give you a good behaviour bond, you will be required to attend court to sign the bond. In this case, the Court will adjourn (postpone) your case to another day and ask you to come to court.
What happens next?
The Court will notify you of its decision in response to your guilty plea, including any sentence you have been given.
You will be notified by email if you elected to be notified by email in your Written Notice of Pleading. If you didn’t elect to be notified by email, the Court will send you a letter by post.
If you want to know the decision sooner, you can call the court registry.
If the Court accepts your Written Notice of Pleading, but you are not happy with your sentence, you can appeal to the District Court within 28 days from the date of the decision. You should get legal advice before appealing.
For more information, see Appeals.