If you are charged with an offence you will be expected to make an initial appearance in the Magistrates Court. That can occur either by police serving a Notice to Appear on you or you being released on a Bail Undertaking with the condition that you appear on a certain date. The other alternative is that you are taken into a watch house and held in custody until you can appear before a Magistrate at the first opportunity.
Offences are either categorised as “simple”, which can include driving and minor drug offences, or “indictable”, which can include offences such as assault offences, burglary, fraud and murder.
The majority of both simple and indictable offences are dealt with in the Magistrates Court depending on what is alleged by police. If the allegations are serious, such as grievous bodily harm or murder, the Magistrates Court proceedings are known as committal proceedings. Committal proceedings are conducted by the Magistrates Court to determine if there is enough evidence for your matter to be committed for trial to either the Supreme or District Court.
Your first court appearance can be a nerve racking experience and you may be unsure of what to expect. We asked our Brisbane solicitors to answer the most frequently asked questions regarding your first appearance in the Magistrates Court.
How Do I Know When I Need to Go to Court?
According to our Brisbane solicitors, your first appearance is often referred to as a mention. You will be notified of the date of the first mention of your matter either by way of a Notice to Appear, Summons or bail conditions.
A Summons is a formal document that specifies the offence you have been charged with as well as the requirement to attend court on a certain date. It is usually sworn on oath before a Justice of the Peace. Your first court appearance following the service of a Summons will most likely take place 2 to 4 weeks after receiving a Summons.
A Notice to Appear is a document served on you by a police officer. The Notice to Appear briefly outlines what you have been charged with, the date on which you are required to appear in court and the location of the court. It will also indicate the time the Notice to Appear was served on you as well as when the alleged offence/s were committed.
A Bail Undertaking is a document prepared by the watch house following you being charged with an offence. It may contain additional conditions. You will be required to sign the document which is effectively a promise to attend at a particular court on a particular date. The document you sign will give you details of your first court appearance. It is important that you comply with the conditions on your bail undertaking which can include preventing contact with certain people, living at a certain address or reporting to a police station.
What Happens If I Miss My Court Date?
When a person is charged by either a Notice to Appear or a Summons they are legally obligated to attend a specific court date and time. If that person fails to appear in court the usual result is the court will issue a Warrant for your arrest. If police execute the warrant you will be taken into custody and you will appear before a Magistrate.
Failure to appear in court in accordance with your Bail Undertaking may result in a Warrant being issued for your arrest. It can lead to a conviction for breaching your bail conditions as well as failing to appear before the court. It is imperative that you seek legal advice from your Brisbane solicitors before entering a plea of guilty to failing to appear in court in accordance with your undertaking.
Our Brisbane solicitors can also organise your surrender to the Warrant, either before a court or to the watch house, if you become aware of your failure to appear prior to police executing the Warrant upon you. Again, our Brisbane solicitors can ensure that every measure is taken place to avoid significant penalties being imposed upon you.
A conviction for breach bail conditions will lead a penalty being imposed under the Bail Act 1980. The maximum penalty for this conviction is 40 penalty units, or 2 years imprisonment.
If you fail to appear in court, we suggest seeking legal advice from your Brisbane solicitors as soon as you can.
Can I Change the Court Date?
In Queensland, you should attend the court date set out to you in either your court hearing notice or Summons. Should you need to change your court date, you can apply for an adjournment of your matter through your Brisbane solicitor.
The reasons for adjourning your court hearing must be sufficiently reasonable. For instance, you may request more time to prepare for your appearance and receive advice in respect of any materials served on your Brisbane solicitors. You may also have personal reasons, such as an illness, for not being able to attend on a specific date. Your Brisbane solicitors will give you advice in respect of any supporting documentation needed when applying for an adjournment.
What Do I Do When I Am in Court?
When you appear in court it is highly recommended that you arrive early, dressed neatly and remember to bring all necessary paperwork. Once you arrive, you should check in with your Brisbane solicitor. If you are not represented you should meet with court staff in order to find out which courtroom your case will be heard. We recommend seeking legal representation or advice before attending court. If you choose not to use your Brisbane solicitors for this first appearance in court, you can seek the assistance of the Duty Lawyer at court.
In the courtroom, the Magistrate will read the charges to you and ask how you wish to plead or whether you require an adjournment. Accordingly, you have three options, which are apply for an adjournment, plead guilty or plead not guilty. If you choose to plead not guilty, your case will be adjourned to a new date to allow police to disclose the evidence they wish to rely. Once you have received that material you can prepare for your trial proceedings.
It is advisable that you seek legal advice before you enter a plea of “guilty”, unless you understand exactly what police are charging you with. Please seek legal advice from your Brisbane solicitors before pleading “guilty”. If the court grants you an adjournment, you will be required to return to court on your new date. The court may require you to enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty” on your second appearance unless you require more time to either seek legal advice from your Brisbane solicitors or prepare your matter.
Do I Need Brisbane Solicitors to Represent Me?
As previously mentioned, you may choose to utilise the Duty Lawyer available at court on the day of your first appearance. However, going to court can be a daunting experience and you may wish to receive legal advice prior to attending that first appearance. This will at least make you feel comfortable in respect of the options you will choose when you attend at your first court appearance. We suggest that you seek legal representation from our Brisbane solicitors at Guest Lawyers. Our team at Guest Lawyers are qualified and experienced in all criminal law matters as well as traffic and drink driving offences. To speak to someone from our team, get in touch by either phone or email.