You are regarded innocent until proven guilty under the standard of proof.
This implies the police ought to give evidence to the court to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the offence.
Before you decide how you want to plead, it is recommended that you get the advice of an experienced criminal lawyer who will go through your matter with you and then give you his or her advice.
Pleading guilty means you agree with the charges that police have placed against you. Pleading not guilty means you do not agree that you committed the offence. You can change your plea to guilty up to, and on the day of your committal hearing or trial.
If you plead not guilty, you or your lawyer can defend the charge, first in the Magistrates Court. If you plead guilty, the process will depend on whether the crime is a simple or indictable offence.
For simple offences, a defendant can do one of the following:
- ask the magistrate to adjourn the case and set a new date if the defendant requires more time to consider their plea
- plead guilty - the magistrate will then listen to the evidence and then decide on the penalty
- plead not guilty - the magistrate will then set a summary hearing.
A summary hearing gives both the defence and prosecution more time to arrange evidence and organise witnesses.
If the defendant pleads guilty to a minor indictable offence, the magistrate can decide the penalty at the first mention or will set a date for a sentence hearing.
For other indictable offences the magistrate will set a committal hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to send the defendant to trial in either the Supreme Court or District Court.
A magistrate may set other ‘mentions’ before a summary hearing to confirm each side has sufficient evidence, organised witnesses and the defendant has finalised their plea.
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.