Guilty or Not Guilty Pleas

When facing a criminal or traffic matter, pleading guilty or not guilty will have an effect on the outcome

Guilty or Not Guilty Pleas

One of the first steps in a criminal or traffic matter, is to consider whether or not you want to plead guilty or not guilty. The way you plead in court, has some impact on the process involved.

Before you enter a plea, make sure you are fully informed about:-

  • The charges against you
  • The possible penalties – fines, penalties, suspensions, jail time etc
  • The impact that any sentence will have on your life
  • The impact that having a criminal history will have on you in future
  • How you can improve your prospects of getting a lesser (or no) penalty

It is important to get some expert legal advice about your personal situation and the offence, but here is some general information you may find useful.

Guilty Pleas

Pleading guilty means that you agree that you have broken the law. Unless you dispute the facts alleged by the police, then the court will adopt those facts in determining a penalty.

You may get a discount on the penalty/sentence you receive if you plead guilty. The discount varies depending on your particular circumstances, the type of offence and how early you enter a guilty plea. It is worth keeping this in mind when you weigh up your options.

After pleading guilty, you will be sentenced. Sometimes this can occur on the same day that you enter in a guilty plea, however it may be adjourned to a later date to allow you sufficient time to complete a rehabilitation program or education course, or for you to obtain more evidence. You will have the opportunity to make submissions to get a Section 10, or to reduce the severity of your fine, suspension or sentence.

The Court will take into account:-

  • whether you have a clear criminal and driving record
  • the severity of the offence
  • the circumstances of the offence
  • the maximum penalty for the particular offence
  • your driving or criminal history
  • whether you have completed any relevant programs or courses
  • the chance of you offending again
  • your character
  • any other mitigating factors

It is possible to plead guilty to an offence but to dispute some of the “facts” alleged by the police. If so, the matter will have to be listed for a hearing and the court has to determine those “facts” beyond reasonable doubt. Sometimes, the court may agree that a particular allegation will not be important and the matter can be finalised quickly. In certain circumstances, the court will sentence you on the day you plead guilty.

Our criminal and traffic law team can help you put forward the best possible case. Depending on your circumstances, this may include:-

  • Approaching and negotiating with the police about the circumstances of any offence
  • Advice on programs or courses you may undertake prior to sentencing
  • Obtaining relevant reports from experts
  • Negotiating to downgrade the severity of your charges
  • Negotiating to reduce the number of charges or strike out particular charges
  • Drafting character references and letters of apology
  • Assisting on pleading guilty or not guilty in writing

Not Guilty Pleas

Pleading ‘not guilty’ means that you do not agree with the charges, or that you do agree, but you have a defence. If you are considering pleading not guilty, there are a number of things you should consider:-

  • Your plea, and particularly the potential discount available for deciding to plead guilty
  • The type of defence you have – such as self-defence, intoxication etc
  • Evidence in your favour
  • Evidence that the police may have, or may be able to obtain, that is not in your favour
  • Your criminal history
  • The potential sentence you face, and the effect it will have on your life
  • The cost, time and stress that will be involved in a court hearing

Generally speaking though, if you are pleading not guilty, there are a number of procedural steps involved, and you will have to attend court on multiple occasions. Your matter may be moved to a higher court (the District or Supreme Court) depending on the severity of the charges.

A hearing generally involves each side putting forward their case, including making submissions, submitting relevant documents and evidence and calling witnesses. The prosecution must prove their case beyond reasonable doubt in order for you to be found guilty.

After hearing both sides of an argument the court will make its decision. At times, sentencing may occur later, to enable someone to complete courses or programs, or make submissions on why their sentence should be reduced.

Need more help?

Our criminal and traffic law team can help you put forward the best possible case. We will:-

  • Examine the brief of evidence and any other documents relied upon by the prosecution and police
  • Advise you on your prospects and the strength of the case against you
  • Request, gather and compile evidence in support of your case
  • Negotiate with the prosecution (where appropriate) to try and reduce or strike out certain charges  
  • Recommend any expert evidence you may need to support your case
  • Advocate for you in court, including cross examining witnesses and putting forward your argument in a clear and concise way
  • Suggest programs or courses that you may undertake to reduce any sentence you receive

If you would like more information on your particular situation, or are just unsure of what to do, contact our criminal and traffic lawyer for a free initial 15 minute telephone conversation.

Why choose us

Our criminal and traffic lawyer will provide you with honest, up-front advice that considers your full circumstances.

  • Over 30 years of Court experience
  • Friendly, approachable and compassionate
  • Experience in Local Courts, District Courts, and the Supreme Court
  • Affordable fees
  • Convenient locations – Belmont, Warners Bay and Newcastle

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