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Defending a fine can be complicated. Sometimes what you think is a defence is only an explanation. If you are not sure if you have a defence you should get
The first time you have to go to court is called a 'mention'.
If you decide to plead not guilty at the mention, your case will not be dealt with on that date. A registrar or magistrate will list your case for a hearing on another day or you may need to attend another mention before the hearing date is set.
You will need to tell the court:
This will help the court to work out when to schedule the hearing and how long the hearing will take. The hearing may be some weeks or months in the future, depending on how busy the court is and when witnesses are available.
Once a hearing date has been set, it can be very difficult to change this date. If you ask for the hearing to be adjourned (postponed), the court may make a costs order against you.
For more information about costs, see
Costs in fine cases.
For more information about what happens at the mention, see
You can also watch the video below to learn what to do and say when you go to court to plead not guilty.
You can also read a transcript of this video (44 kb).
If you know you want to plead not guilty, but you can't get to court for the mention, you can fill out a form that tells the court you want to plead not guilty. This is called a 'Written Notice of Pleading'.
If you want to send the court a Written Notice of Pleading you must do so at least seven days before your court date. There is no guarantee that a court will accept a Written Notice of Pleading.
You cannot use a Written Notice of Pleading if you are on bail for the offence and your bail conditions require that you attend court.
For more information, see
Pleading not guilty in writing.
Before you go to court for the hearing you will need to prepare your case. You should consider whether you need to:
Step by step guide: Preparing for the hearing - Step by step guide.
If you entered a plea of not guilty at the mention or in writing, you can change your plea to guilty before the hearing. If you change your plea on the day of the hearing you may be ordered to pay the costs of the prosecution attending the hearing.
If you want to try and avoid these costs, you can file an Application to Vacate a Hearing Date.
For a copy of the application form, go to
the Local Courts website.
Before you apply to vacate a hearing date, you should get
If you entered a plea of guilty, you would need to have special circumstances to change your plea to not guilty. If you want to do this, you should get
When the hearing starts, a number of things may happen:
Step by step guide: Presenting your case at the hearing - Step by step guide.
Case study - Charlie and the police
Charlie was driving along the highway when there was an accident in front of him. The car in front of Charlie rear-ended another car and Charlie knocked into the car immediately in front of his car. A police officer attended the scene and Charlie was fined for negligent driving. The police officer says that Charlie failed to keep a proper lookout and failed to keep a safe distance from the car in front. Charlie thinks that he did everything he could to drive safely and that the accident could not have been prevented. Charlie has chosen (elected) to challenge the fine in court.