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Pleading Not Guilty to a Minor Offence in Court

If you are represented by a solicitor generally you will not have to say or do anything. The following procedure will take place:

Mentions

The term ‘mention’ merely describes a time when a Magistrate addresses your particular matter in the Court. If you are represented you will generally only be required to attend the First Mention of your matter.

First Mention
In Queensland, traffic matters and simple or minor offences (such as those under the Summary Offence Act Queensland or Police Powers and Responsibilities Act Queensland) are mentioned before a Magistrate. The First Mention of your matter is generally a simple procedural occurrence so that your Solicitor may inform the Magistrate how you intend to proceed.
When your matter is mentioned your Solicitor will direct you to stand up so the Magistrate can see who they are dealing with. At this time, the Magistrate will ask your Solicitor whether you want to plead guilty, not guilty or whether you would like to adjourn your matter to another date.
Your Solicitor may suggest that you adjourn your matter to another date so that further information can be gathered. Sometimes there may be more than one adjournment of your matter, where there are legitimate reasons for doing so.

Final Mention
>On the final date your matter is mentioned, you Solicitor will appear on your behalf and inform the Court that “you plead not guilty” to the charge and a date will be arranged for a hearing of your case.
The Court will also list a date for a review mention of your case.
Review Mentions
A Review Mention is a procedural date so that the Magistrate can be ensured that the matter is on track for the Hearing.
If you are represented, you will not be required to appear at any Review Mention, rather your Solicitor will attend on your behalf for the purpose of advising the Court on the extent that the Brief of Evidence has been disclosed to us by the prosecution.
The Brief of Evidence is all the evidence the prosecution have against you in respect of the charge. The Prosecution are supposed to disclose all of this material to your Solicitor by that review mention date. However, it is not uncommon that there are multiple Review Mentions in order to obtain disclosure of all the evidence from the Prosecution.

Summary Hearing

You will be required to attend the hearing. At that time the Prosecution must prove that you are guilty of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. If the Magistrate has a reasonable doubt then they must dismiss the charge. In most cases you do not have to prove anything and you are presumed to be innocent of the offence until proven guilty.

The Prosecution Case
The Police Prosecutor who represents the Police will call witnesses to try and prove that you committed the crime alleged. The process of the Prosecutor questioning the witnesses is called “evidence in chief”. Your Solicitor may object to questions asked by the Police Prosecutor in certain circumstances. Unfortunately, going through all of the possible objections available is beyond the limits of this tour.

After the Police Prosecutor has finished asking the witness questions, your Solicitor may “cross examine” the witness. During cross examination your Solicitor will attempt to break down the witnesses’ story.

After your Solicitor has finished cross examining the witness the Police Prosecutor may “re examine” the witness to clarify any issues.

The process of evidence in chief, followed by cross examination and then re examination will occur for each witness before moving onto the next. After all witnesses have given evidence the Police Prosecutor will close the Police case.

Prima Facie Case
Before you are required to answer the Police case, the Magistrate has to decide whether you could be lawfully convicted of the offence based on taking the evidence presented by the Police Prosecution at its highest value. Your Solicitor may make submissions to the Magistrate as to why you could not be lawfully convicted.

Submissions Why You Should Not Be Convicted
Your Solicitor may make submissions as to why they should not be convicted of an offence without giving evidence. However, once these submissions are made, you may not be allowed to call evidence on your behalf. This is often called a “no case submission”.

Whether you call evidence or not is a difficult decision and should be discussed with your Solicitor and considered carefully. It is not uncommon for a Defendant to choose not to call evidence, for various reasons and particularly if the Police Prosecution case is weak.

The Defence Case

If you intend to give evidence, then you will normally give evidence first. Your Solicitor will ask you a number of questions so that you give all relevant evidence. Try to relax and recall evidence as you remember the events and keep in mind that rehearsed evidence often sounds artificial, so try to be natural.

Tips for surviving cross examination
Being cross examined can be a very stressful experience. Here are a few tips to assist in making the experience less stressful:

  • Keep your answers as short as possible. If you can, answer questions with “yes” or “no”.
  • Do not argue with the Prosecutor.
  • Try not to exaggerate what occurred, as this will often make your version unbelievable.
  • Try not to make speeches.
  • Do not attack the credit of the crown witnesses. If it is necessary to do so, it is job for your Solicitor.
  • If you are unsure as to whether some event took place, it is ok to say “I cannot remember” or “I don’t know”.
  • Wait a short time before responding to a question so that your Solicitor has time to make an objection, if required. It is also useful to wait a short time to remember accurately.
  • It is ok to ask for a drink of water or a short adjournment so you can compose yourself if you are feeling anxious or upset.
  • If you do not understand a question, it is ok to say so and ask the Prosecutor to repeat it.

Submissions
After all witnesses your solicitor intended to call have given evidence, the Police Prosecution will make submissions and then your Solicitor will also make submissions in respect of the evidence presented in the Court.

The Magistrate will then make their decision as to whether you are guilty or not, based on the evidence presented and will normally make a decision shortly after submissions are given by both parties.

If you are unhappy with the decision do not argue with the Magistrate or pass comment in the Court room. Speak with your Solicitor outside the room about your rights to appeal.

If you are found guilty, the Magistrate will then address the issue of sentencing. He or she may begin the sentence immediately, or adjourn the sentence to be dealt with on another date.

The information contained in this page was accurate at the time it was published. You should confirm the accuracy of this information with us or another solicitor before relying upon it.

Sentencing for a  Not Guilty Plea to a Minor Offence in Court

At the sentence the Prosecutor will address the Magistrate first. He or she will tender some documents to the Magistrate. These may include a QP9 – Court Brief, criminal record and if relevant, a traffic record. The Prosecutor will also read out a summary of the charge as stated on the QP9 and may make a suggestion regarding an appropriate sentence.

Your Solicitor will hand up any character references and any other relevant documentation at this time. Your Solicitor will make submissions after the Magistrate has read what the Prosecutor and your Solicitor have handed to the court.

The Magistrate will then respond. The Magistrate may decide to deal with your matter immediately or may want to adjourn your matter so he or she can consider the material presented to them more thoroughly before passing his or her sentence.

In deciding the appropriate penalty to be imposed, the Magistrate will have considered the summary presented by the Prosecutor and the submissions made by your Solicitor. You should stand up when the Magistrate begins to talk in respect of your sentence.

It is unlikely that you will have to speak at any time during your sentence. If you are asked a question by the Magistrate, you should respond honestly. You may consult with your Solicitor if you do not understand how to answer the Magistrate’s question. Be sure to always be polite and refer to the Magistrate as “Your Honour”.

If you are unhappy with the decision do not argue with the Magistrate or pass comment in the Court room. Speak with your Solicitor outside the room about your rights to appeal. In the case that you are sentenced to imprisonment immediately, you should wait to speak with police staff upon your arrival at the watchouse about contacting your solicitor.

Penalties for a Not Guilty Plea to a Minor Offence in Court

For minor offences, the first three types of penalties are most likely for first time offenders. It is important to note that the penalty will generally be more serious each time an offender commits a new offence, even if the offence the new offence is minor. For example, imprisonment is a very real possibility for someone who is facing a disqualified driving charge with a history of previous disqualified driving offences.

Further, the Court may impose more than one of the following penalties. For example, you may get a fine as well as be ordered to complete community service.

Aside from your penalty, the Court must also make an order as to whether your conviction for the charge is recorded or not.

 

Licence Disqualification

If your offence is a traffic matter, you may be subject to a period of licence disqualification on top of your penalty.

The information contained in this page was accurate at the time it was published. You should confirm the accuracy of this information with us or another solicitor before relying upon it.

 

If you have are due to appear in court for either a criminal or driving offence it is important to seek advice from a lawyer who specialises in this area.

Call us on 1300 331 331 or book an appointment to see one of our lawyers.

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