Understanding the Court process
It is important to understand that if you have been charged with a criminal offence it is not going to go away. You have to face this matter head on. The following information will help you understand how a criminal charge starts.
If you are 17 or older, you will be required to appear at the Magistrates Court if you have been charged with a criminal offence, and/or traffic offence.
A criminal proceeding against you can be started by the following:
- Arrest and Charge;
- Complaint and Summons; or
- A Notice to Appear.
Arrest and charge
If you are arrested, you will be taken to the local police watch house where you will be searched, processed and formally charged. You will remain at the watch house and in custody until your charges have been heard in the Magistrates Court House. You will be given the opportunity to ring a family member, friend or lawyer. A Magistrate will make a decision about whether you can get bail.
Complaint and summons
If you have been issued with a summons, a written complaint has been made against you by an officer and you will be required to attend court and answer the charge made against you.
A Notice to Appear
A Notice to Appear is an alternative to an arrest, which is issued by a police officer. A Notice to Appear can be issued on the spot, after arrest or once you have been taken into custody, making it an alternative to being charged and then bailed.
If you have been issued with a Complaint and Summons or Notice to Appear by a police officer, you will be required to appear in court on the date listed. The charge against you will either be a summary offence or indictable offence. Summary charges are simple offences including (but not limited to), traffic offences and disorderly behaviour. Indictable offences are more serious offences such as rape and murder. Regardless of the charge, the Magistrate Court House is the first point for all criminal offences. Depending on your charge, you matter may remain in the Magistrates Court House, or the Magistrate may decide to send your matter to a higher court.
If you have committed a traffic offence, you may receive an on the spot fine, or receive a fine in the mail (infringement notice). In either case, you must be made aware of the law which you have broken, the amount you are required to pay, how and where you must pay, and the due date of the fine. If you fail to pay on time, additional penalties are issued. If you disagree with the traffic offence you have been charged with, you may dispute the charge in court.