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The first day you have to go to court is called a 'mention'. The mention is for the magistrate to find out whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty.
At some local courts, you might have to go to a call over before the mention. A call over is before a registrar. The registrar will ask if you are ready to plead guilty or not guilty. If you tell the registrar you want to plead guilty, your case may be moved to another courtroom where a magistrate can make a decision about your punishment (called a 'sentence').
When you get to court you should find out what courtroom you are in by:
Once you are in the courtroom, you should wait until your name is called. The magistrate or registrar might work their way through the list of cases, or they might first deal with requests for adjournments or with defendants who have lawyers.
Once your name is called, you will usually be asked to stand next to the bar table. The bar table is where the lawyers and prosecutor sit.
For more information about what a courtroom looks like, see
Who's who in court.
For information about how to find your courtroom, you should watch the video below.
You can also read a
transcript of this video (36 kb).
This video is available with the audio description.
You should try to get to the court at least half an hour before the time in your Court Attendance Notice (CAN). You may be at the court for a few hours, and sometimes for most of the day. You should make arrangements with your work or childcare if necessary.
The magistrate or registrar may close the courtroom for morning tea (usually around 11:30am) and for lunch (usually from 1:00pm to 2:00pm). You will have to leave the courtroom during these breaks. You can check with the court officer or the registry what time the courtroom will reopen.
If you have decided to plead guilty the magistrate will usually sentence you on the day. In some cases the magistrate may decide to adjourn your case to complete a program or course. For example, if you have enrolled in a Traffic Offenders Intervention Program, MERIT program or another intervention program, your case may be adjourned until after you have finished. Your case could also be adjourned to allow a report to be prepared for sentencing (called a Pre Sentence Report).
You will have a chance to tell the magistrate some things about you and the charges you face before you are sentenced. You should prepare what you are going to say before you go to court. In most cases you will not have to go back on another day.
Different discounts on penalty apply depending on the type of offence you have been charged with and at what stage you have pleaded guilty. You should get
legal advice about your specific situation and about what the benefit would be in pleading guilty.
For more information, see
If you want to plead not guilty the magistrate or registrar will tell you to come back to court on another day, either for a hearing or for another mention.
Depending on what you have been charged with, the court may:
You should also tell the court if you need an interpreter for the next time you are at court.
Before deciding to plead not guilty, you should get
For more information, see
Pleading not guilty.
If you are not ready to have your case heard at court, you can ask the magistrate to move it to another day. This is called an 'adjournment'.
Examples of why you may not be ready are:
Tell the magistrate how long you need and why. For example, if you know that you have an appointment to see a lawyer in two weeks you can tell the magistrate that you need at least two weeks to give you time to see the lawyer.
You can ask the magistrate to refer you to an intervention program before you enter a plea. Your hearing date will be adjourned until after you have completed the program. For more information about intervention programs, see
For more information about how to ask for an adjournment, you should watch the video below.
You can also read a transcript of this video (45 kb).
If you think you won't be able to make it to court you can:
If you are on bail you must attend court on the day written on the CAN. If you do not attend court you could be committing an offence and a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
If you can't go to court you should contact the court registry 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 states you are unfit to attend court and why, and ask the court to adjourn your case. You should do this as soon as possible.
Sample letter requesting an adjournment.
If you need to move your case to another court you should contact the court. You can find the court's details on the CAN. The court may ask that you put your request in writing.
Sample letter requesting a change of court.
In some cases you may be able to fill out a form called a 'Written Notice of pleading'. In this form you tell the court whether you want to plead guilty or not guilty.
You should get
legal advice before using a Written Notice of Pleading. You should not use a Written Notice of Pleading if you are on bail.
For more information about pleading guilty or not guilty in writing and when you can do it, see
Pleading guilty or
Pleading not guilty.