When you are accused of a crime, you will be required to appear before the court. This appearance is a serious matter which will determine your future. If you are found guilty, you will get severe penalties and gain a criminal record which will affect future employment and travel. Therefore, it is important to prepare extensively before your court date. Here are crucial aspects that you should cover for the best results.
Criminal charges are complicated, and the potential penalties are high. So, you should seek legal advice from an experienced lawyer before appearing in court. The expert will understand the details of your case and your options for defence. In simple terms, the lawyer will explain what the charges mean and prepare you for the proceedings. It is advisable to hire a private lawyer to represent you in court.
Duty lawyers are also available at most Magistrates' Courts, so you can get free advice and in some cases, representation. There is no law against representing yourself in court. People choose this option if the charges are minor. Also, this choice is suitable for people without private lawyers or a duty lawyer for representation. If you do elect to take matters into your hands, you should still get advice.
Pleading Your Case
When your criminal charges are presented in court, you can plead guilty or not guilty of the offence. If you plead guilty, you are accepting that you broke the law according to the statement presented by the prosecutor. Often, this choice allows the case to go on the same day unless the charges are serious. However, you should know the implications of admitting to a crime in a court are dire. Therefore, you should not plead guilty lightly.
If you take the 'not guilty' plea, the case will be postponed for another day. This action will allow you or your lawyer to have a summary case conference. In this meeting, you will outline what you disagree with in the prosecutor's statement. If you still do not plead guilty to the charges after the conference, the case will proceed to a summary hearing where evidence is presented, and witnesses called.
Addressing the Magistrate
Finally, you should know how to speak to the judge when appearing in court. You should address the Magistrate as 'Your Honour' and stand when they talk to you. Never interrupt the judge and speak with volume and clarity. Inquire about the best practices in particular courts from your lawyer.