Will I Go To Jail For A First Offence?
Generally, if you have been charged with an offence, you will have to appear before the Court at some stage, whether or not you are represented by a lawyer. However, depending on the nature of your matter, you may choose to have your matter dealt with by a ‘Written Notice of Pleading’. If you do not attend Court as required of you by a Court Attendance Notice, the consequences are severe. If you have been granted bail in your matter, then it will be a condition of your bail that you attend Court as required of you, and if you do not attend Court, you will be in breach of your bail and it can be revoked.
If you do not attend Court, the Magistrate can do any of the following:
If you miss your court date, it is important that you contact the Court registry to find out what has happened with your matter. If you have had an arrest warrant issued against you, you should seek legal advice.
If you have been charged with a less serious matter that can be dealt with in the Local Court, and wish to plead guilty, you can choose to have the Magistrate deal with the matter in your absence by filing a ‘Written Notice of Pleading’. This option is only available for offences where the maximum penalty is a fine.
You can provide to the Court your explanation of the offence and why it occurred, information about your personal circumstances, references from people who know you, and any other documentation you may think is relevant to the Court’s decision.
It is within the Court’s discretion to reject your written notice of pleading if your explanation of the offence conflicts with the facts of the offence as presented by the police. The court may also reject your written notice if the explanation you have given indicates you may have a defence available.
The main disadvantage of a filing a written notice of pleading rather than appearing in person is that the Magistrate will find it very difficult to assess your personal circumstances, your explanation for the offence, your demeanour and your level of remorse.