If you have been charged with a Criminal Offence or certain traffic offences, you will be required to attend Court. All matters commence in the Magistrates Court and, depending upon the type of offence, summary or indictable, they may be finalised in the Magistrates Court or sent to a higher court such as the Supreme or District Court.
Attending Court can be very stressful, particularly if you have never been before. Feeling nervous, contact us to speak with an experienced and qualified lawyer.
How does my charge make it to Court?
There are three main ways in which your matter will commence in Court:
- Notice to appear; or
- Complaint & Summons.
In all circumstances you will be required to appear before the Magistrates Court. Depending on how you have been charged will determine how quickly you will be required to appear at Court. It may be anywhere from the next business day, 21 days or longer.
After you have been charged with an offence, Police are required to file certain paperwork with the Court Registry. This will inform the Court that there are charges you are required to answer. As bare minimum police must file the charge sheet, bail (if applicable), a copy of the notice to appear or complaint and summons. In the case of a complaint and summons, proof of service must also be filed.
I’ve been provided a QP9, what is this?
Prior to your first mention, after you have been charged with an offence, the arresting or acting officer will complete what is known as a QP9. This simply shorthand for Queensland Police form 9. You will be provided a copy of your QP9 at the first mention of your matter.
The QP9 will list the exact charge, including the legislation you are alleged to have breached, and a brief summary of the facts the police intend to rely upon in making out the charge against you.
When you receive this it is important that you carefully read the charges against you, including any allegations of aggravation, the factual basis the police are relying upon, and if there are alleged to be any witnesses. If you are having trouble understanding the charges against you or would like some further advice on the QP9 don’t hesitate to contact our office.
If you have previous criminal or traffic history, this will also be included with the QP9 material you received. Previous entries on either your criminal or traffic history will affect the outcome in Court. For example, you are more likely to receive the minimum penalty if you have no previous history.
What will happen at my first appearance?
Your first appearance, referred to as a first mention or first return date, the Magistrate will ask you what you intend to do with your matter or what you are seeking on this occasion. There are three main options available;
- Plead guilty;
- Plead not guilty; or
- Request an adjournment to a later date.
If you intend to seek an adjournment to a later date you will need to provide the Magistrate with a reason why. The Magistrate will be more inclined to grant an adjournment if you have a legitimate reason for example, you are obtaining legal advice.
If you enter a plea of guilty, depending on the charge, the Magistrate will sentence you. You will be asked if you are entering your plea of your own free will, the charge will be read to you and you will be asked how you plead. After entering your plea the Magistrate will ask if you have anything further to say. It is at this point that you would explain any mitigating circumstances – for example any life stressors that may have caused you to act out of character. The Magistrate will sentence you and give reasons for that sentence.
It is important to be aware if you have been charged with an indictable offence it may not be possible to enter a plea at first mention.
If you are pleading not guilty the Magistrate will list the matter for a trial and order the prosecution to provide you with all their evidence. This is known as a Brief of Evidence. In most circumstance the Magistrate will allow 6 weeks for this to be provided to you. There will likely be a further mention after the Brief of Evidence is due to confirm if a trial is required, if there is any outstanding material, and estimate length of trial.
If you’re feeling nervous about your upcoming court date and you want to discuss with a qualified and experienced criminal lawyer call us today 4980 4218.
Appearing at Court, whether it is the Magistrates Court or the Supreme Court, is extremely stressful. Even seasoned legal professionals will occasionally be nervous. It’s important that you are prepared for the outcome or the sentence you may receive.
Don’t want to face Court on your ow? Get in touch with us for a no obligation free 30- minute consult. We can provide you with some preliminary advice.