If you have been charged with a traffic offence, there is a very good chance that you will be given a Notice To Appear which will require you to attend court on a particular day. Even if you only receive a ticket, you will still need to attend court if you dispute that ticket.
The process of going to court can be very confusing and time-consuming, especially if you don’t have an experienced traffic lawyer representing you. What happens at court will depend on a number of factors, with the most important being whether you decide to plead guilty or not guilty.
Most people plead guilty to the offence that they have been charged with. This is usually because they accept the allegations against them, but sometimes people will plead guilty simply to avoid lengthy court proceedings. We always recommend that you get advice from a lawyer before deciding to plead guilty.
Except for the most serious traffic offences, your matter will be dealt with in a Magistrates Court, which is the lowest court in Queensland.
On the first day you attend court, the magistrate will want to know what you are doing with your case. If you are pleading guilty, you can tell the magistrate this and you will normally be sentenced then and there.
If you are wanting to plead guilty but you are not yet ready to have the matter finalised (for example, if you are wanting to seek further legal advice), then you can ask the magistrate for an adjournment. This is simply the term used when asking the magistrate if you can come back on another day. If it is your first court appearance, the magistrate should have no problems with granting your request for an adjournment. You can then plead guilty the next time you attend court.
Pleading Not Guilty
If you are pleading not guilty, then you will need to tell this to the magistrate either on your first day at court or, if you have been granted an adjournment, on the next court date. The magistrate may then give you a trial date or otherwise another date to come back.
Before the trial takes place, the police prosecutions will need to give you a brief of evidence. This will contain information about what evidence they will be producing at the trial, including which witnesses they will be calling to give evidence against you.
Ordinarily, you will not be required to tell the prosecutions what evidence you will be relying on at the trial (although there are exceptions).
If you are found guilty after a trial, you will be sentenced by the magistrate. It is important to note that any punishment you receive after a trial will often be more severe than if you had pleaded guilty. This is because the court has found you guilty of the offence but you did not admit your guilt when given the opportunity.
If however you are found not guilty, then that should be the end of the matter.
Do you need a lawyer to represent you?
In 99% of cases, we would strongly recommend that you have a lawyer to represent you. There are a number of reasons why a lawyer can help you:-
- If you are pleading guilty, a lawyer will know what to say and do in court to get you the best outcome possible. This can be anything from a reduction in your fine to keeping you out of prison;
- If you are pleading not guilty, you need to make sure that you have the best chance at winning your trial. Most non-lawyers do not know the rules and strategies needed to win trials;
- A lawyer will take over the responsibility of looking after your case from you. This will allow you to keep living your life without the added stress of court proceedings;
- A lawyer will give you advice before you make important decisions. It is unlikely that you would want to plead guilty to an offence when the evidence clearly shows that the charge against you is too weak;
- Even though it costs money to use a lawyer, it can often be cheaper in the long run than doing it yourself. For example, if you need your licence for work, every month that your licence disqualification period is reduced could be saving you thousands of dollars in potentially lost income;
- A lawyer will save you time. In many circumstances, a lawyer can attend court on your behalf, which saves you the time and effort involved in going to court. This is especially important when you need to attend court on several occasions, such as if you are taking your matter to a trial.
If you need to go to court, contact us straight away to discuss your options.