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Going to court, especially for the first time, can be confusing and you may be nervous. The best way to make sure you are prepared for court is to be organised.
Before the date you have to go to court, you should:
You can either represent yourself at court, or you can get a solicitor. You should arrange to get some legal advice as soon as possible, as it may take some time before you can see or speak to a lawyer.
You may be able to get legal advice from:
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). If you can't find it you can contact the court or go to the
Local Court website.
If you miss the 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 won't be able to explain what happened to the court or there may be a warrant issued for your arrest. If you miss your court date you may be able to apply for an annulment.
For more information, see
Appeals and annulments.
If you can't attend court, you should contact the court and explain why. It is a good idea to send something in writing, for example, a letter, email or fax. If you are sick you should also send a medical certificate that states that you are not fit to attend court. You should do this as soon as possible. Do not leave it until the day you are due in court! The court may adjourn (postpone) your case for a period of time, usually one or two weeks.
If you are sending a medical certificate to the court, you should make sure the doctor writes why you are unable to attend. The magistrate may not accept a certificate if it only says you are unwell or unfit for work.
You may also be able to plead guilty in writing. If you do this you may not have to attend 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.
In some cases you may be able to enter a program designed for people who have committed the offence you were charged with. These are programs that 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). Programs like the TOIP can help a magistrate decide 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 for an adjournment. You should ask for an adjournment to a date after the program finishes. If you want to find or enrol in any programs related to your offence, you should get
It's 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:
When pleading guilty, it is a good idea to get two or three character references. Character references are letters 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.
Instructions: Preparing a character reference.
Sample: Character reference.
You should take any evidence you have that supports the things you say in your submissions, for example:
You should take the original and three copies of any documents, for example character references, you intend to show the court. The original will be kept by the court. You will need to give one copy to the prosecutor, keep one for your records and have a spare.
You should take the following things with you 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 (54 kb).
For more information about what to do when you get to court, see Presenting your guilty plea at court - Step by step guide.