Should you defend yourself if charged with criminal offences before the Local Court? RMB Lawyers Criminal division explains the process:
When someone is charged with a criminal offence, they will normally receive documents known as Police Facts summarising what they have allegedly done.
The charged person will be required to attend the nearest Local Court to the area where the offence has allegedly occurred.
Should you be involved in Local Court proceedings, you do not have to instruct a lawyer (and may not be able to afford one) or you may be entitled to obtain Legal Aid.
Defending yourself in a criminal case can be stressful and difficult, but it can be done.
The first time your matter is in Court you will have to attend and normally indicate if you intend to plead guilty or not. If you plead not guilty, then the Court will normally order that the Police provide the evidence that they intend to rely on.
You will be required to further attend Court and say whether you wish to maintain your plea.
You have the right to defend the claim and ask that the Court list your matter for hearing. Each of the Police witnesses will attend Court and give their evidence. You have the right to question them, within reason, trying to show that their evidence is either incorrect or not accurate.
Common questions involve people’s recollection of events, and whether or not they are telling the truth. In many Court cases, people either believe something to be true (when it is not) or their recollection is poor.
You have the right to provide your own witnesses, providing their version of events. You also have the right give evidence in the witness box (although you do not have to).
The Magistrate will consider the evidence and decide whether you are guilty. If you are found guilty, the Magistrate will decide the appropriate penalty, taking into account a number of matters.
The Court may be critical of your decision to plead not guilty, depending on the circumstances.
The criminal system is difficult, and often can feel unfair when someone is charged with an offence. However, with the right strategy, you can properly represent yourself and succeed in your defence.
But I strongly suggest you obtain independent legal advice at the start to at least have an idea as to what you are required to do in your particular circumstances.