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How will the Magistrates Court finalise my criminal matter?

Potts Lawyers > Criminal Law & Offences  > How will the Magistrates Court finalise my criminal matter?

How will the Magistrates Court finalise my criminal matter?

Many different types of cases are heard in the Magistrates Court. If you have been charged with a criminal offence you will attend the Magistrates Court at some point.

These commonly include minor offences such as:

These are often referred to as summary offences which means they are not required to be transferred to higher courts such as the District or Supreme Court.  Instead, these offences can be dealt with in the Magistrates Court.

This article outlines how the Magistrates Court can finalise these types of offences.

 

Your charges are dismissed

The prosecution is required to prove that you committed the alleged offences beyond a reasonable doubt. If you disagree with the allegations raised against you, you can review the allegations as well as the prosecution brief of evidence and provide advice in relation to potential weaknesses with the prosecution case and provide submissions to the prosecution prior to your court date.

If the prosecution accept your submissions the charges can be dismissed by the Magistrates Court on your court date.

 

Diversion

Diversion is a process that diverts charges away from the court system. This process is typically reserved for minor offences and first offenders.

For example, the Illicit Drug Court Diversion Program is a sentencing option for those pleading guilty to minor drug offences. The Program allows the Magistrate to impose a good behaviour bond with the condition that you attend a drug information and education session.

This can be an excellent result for you because the Magistrate will not record a conviction on your criminal history.

There are however eligibility requirements that need to be satisfied before you can participate in the diversion process.

 

You plead guilty

If you accept the charges that have been laid against you, you can decide to plead guilty in the Magistrates Court. At this time, the Magistrate will decide an appropriate penalty having regard to the circumstances of your matter, including your early plea of guilty, co-operation with authorities and previous criminal history.  The Magistrate will also consider whether or not to record a conviction.

Most of the time the Magistrate will deliver the penalty order immediately and include an outline of the factors that have been considered.

It is critical that you obtain legal advice before deciding to plead guilty so that you are well informed of the potential penalties with respect to your charges and steps that can be taken in the lead up to your court date to ensure you obtain the best possible outcome. Depending upon the nature and seriousness of the charges the penalty orders include:-

  • Good behaviour bond;
  • Fine;
  • Community Service;
  • Probation;
  • Intensive Correction Order;
  • Wholly/partially suspended term of imprisonment;
  • Term of imprisonment with a parole release/eligibility date.

 

You plead not guilty and contest the charges

If you decide to plead guilty to the charges your matter will be listed for a summary trial which will be heard by a Magistrate and without a jury.

At trial the prosecution will call each of their witnesses who are questioned first by the prosecutor, then your lawyer, and then re-examined by the prosecution if necessary.  You will be given the opportunity to give or call evidence if you wish. If you do decide to give evidence you will be questioned by your own lawyer then cross-examined by the prosecution, and if necessary, re-examined by your own lawyer again.

At the conclusion of your evidence, both your lawyer and prosecution will provide closing addresses to the Magistrate. The Magistrate will then decide whether you are guilty or not guilty of the charges. The Magistrate may adjourn to a later to consider his/her decision.

 

What if I am found not guilty?

If the Magistrate determines that you are not guilty, you are immediately dismissed and the trial process is concluded. This means that the Magistrate is not satisfied that the prosecution has proved the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt and the prosecution can not appeal if you are acquitted.

 

What if I am found guilty?

Sentencing proceedings will typically commence immediately if the Magistrate finds you guilty. At this time, the prosecution and your lawyer will make submissions to the Magistrate regarding an appropriate penalty.

Generally, the Magistrate will impose a heavier sentence if you are found guilty at a trial rather than pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity. This is because the courts generally reduce a sentence on a plea of guilty to recognise your cooperation with the authorities and early acceptance of your actions. This is an important factor to consider before you decide how to plead.

If you are dissatisfied with the Magistrate’s conviction or sentence you can appeal to a higher court. There is a strict one month appeal period in which you can appeal your conviction or sentence.

The prosecution can also appeal if you are convicted and they are dissatisfied with your sentence.

 

Legal Representation in the Magistrates Court

Are you being prosecuted for a minor criminal offence?

To ensure your rights are protected, you should seek legal advice from an expert criminal defence lawyer from Potts Lawyers.

Contact us immediately to discuss your legal matter by calling our Gold Coast office on (07) 5532 3133 or Brisbane law offices on (07) 3221 4999.

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