What you need to know about criminal law

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At Forge Legal, we understand that being charged with a criminal offence is a daunting and confusing prospect. The consequences of a criminal charge can be severe and can have a significant impact on your life and the people around you. If you have been charged with a criminal offence, it is essential that you obtain legal advice that is tailored to your individual circumstances to ensure you get the outcome you deserve.

thumb criminal law 2In Queensland, there are two different types of offences:

  1. Simple or summary offences which can include traffic offences, trespass, minor assault and minor drug offences; and
  2. Indictable offences which can include murder, manslaughter and serious drug offences, armed robbery and dangerous driving causing death.

Ordinarily, a person is charged with a criminal offence when they are arrested or served by police with a complaint and summons or notice to appear.

A person who has been arrested will be formally charged when they have been taken to the nearest watch-house and processed. Generally, a person will be processed by way of a photograph, fingerprints and possibly a DNA swab. The watch-house officer will then determine whether a person is eligible for bail. This is dependent upon that person’s criminal and bail history (if any) and the seriousness of the offence that person has been charged with. Those who are not granted bail by the watch-house officer are remanded until they appear in court - usually the next day, if not that same day.

A complaint and summons is a charge which is in writing and has been sworn by a suitably qualified witness such as a justice of the peace prior to being served upon you. Once you have been served, you will need to appear in court at a later date, which should be specified in your summons. You must ensure that you and/or your lawyer are present in court on the date listed in your summons.  

A notice to appear is relatively similar to a summons with the exception that a notice to appear only provides a general description of the offence with which you have been charged. This document does not have to be witnessed or signed and can be issued by police at the time of the offence or sent by mail to you at a later date. A person who has been served with a notice to appear is directed to appear in court at a later date, which is listed on the notice to appear. Again, it is incredibly important that you and/or your lawyer appear in court on the date listed on your notice to appear.

It is important to note that if you fail to appear on the first court date, you may be charged with a further offence of “failing to appear” unless you have a reasonable excuse. If you fail to appear, a warrant may issue for your arrest.

Generally, at your first court date, you or your lawyer may do one of three things:

  1. Ask for an adjournment of your matter to allow you to obtain preliminary or further legal advice. This is at the discretion of the court and may or may not be granted.
  2. Enter a plea of guilty. Prior to considering entering a plea of guilty, you must obtain independent legal advice about the potential consequences to you should you enter said plea.
  3. Enter a plea of not guilty. If you enter a plea of not guilty, you will be given another date to return to court to commence the trial process.

Your first court date will also allow you to apply for bail (if necessary). Bail is a term used to describe a written promise you make to the court after you have been charged with an offence. If a person is granted bail, a judge can enforce certain conditions on that person’s bail, including but not limited to:

  • Enforcing living arrangements;
  • Ordering no contact with a person or persons; and
  • Reporting to a police station or bail officer on a regular basis.

thumb handcuffsThe court will ordinarily refuse bail in circumstances where you have a prior record of breaching bail conditions if the court considers that you may commit further offences if released, or for another legal reason. If you have not been granted bail, then you will be kept in police custody until your next court date.

After having been charged with an offence, you are at liberty to request a charge sheet from the police which sets out the complete details of your charge. You are also at liberty to view the police prosecution file which should include documents such as witness statements, your criminal history (if any) and a QP9. For those who are unfamiliar with the term QP9, this stands for Queensland Police Form 9, which is a document that should include your criminal history, a summary of the offence and the facts alleged by police, as well as the relevant laws under which you have been charged.

If you have entered a plea of not guilty, then the police have five weeks to provide you with a full brief of evidence which they intend to rely upon at trial. This five-week period commences from the date your matter has been listed for trial, usually the second or third court date (otherwise known as a summary call over).

If you are charged with a criminal offence, you must obtain independent legal advice about the allegations against you and understand the potential consequences to you and your loved ones. It is incredibly helpful when a client comes prepared with their charge sheet, QP9 and any other documents relating to their charge. However, we understand that collating such information can be a complicated process, so we can certainly undertake this task on your behalf.

thumb criminal lawThe Magistrates Court deals with the majority of criminal offences such as minor assaults, traffic offences, shoplifting and disorderly behaviour. The District and Supreme Courts hear more serious offences such as murder, armed robbery and serious drug offences. There are some charges in which you can select which court you wish your matter to be heard in, however, it is usually a decision for the prosecutor or judge as to in which court your matter will be heard. Our team of criminal lawyers can represent your interests in the Magistrates Court, District and Supreme Court.

We can represent your interests in a variety of criminal matters such as:

Depending on the complexity of your criminal law matter, there can be a number of appearances in court prior to your matter being finalised, whether it is finalised after a trial or after having entered a plea. Where a person is legally represented, it is not always a requirement that they appear in court for every attendance, although it is always preferred that you are present in court for every appearance before a judge. Our criminal lawyers will advise you when it is necessary for you to be present in court as there can be serious consequences should you fail to appear without reasonable excuse.

Our criminal law experts will put your mind at ease with in-depth legal advice tailored to your individual circumstances. We will walk you through the process from arrest all the way to trial and sentencing, if and when necessary. We also assist with bail applications and appeals to the District and Supreme Courts.

The legal advice you receive during your criminal matter can have longstanding effects on your life and those of your loved ones. We will endeavour to keep you informed about your matter through every step in the process and give you realistic and thorough advice at each critical stage.  We provide our clients with quality advice and ensure you have reasonable expectations with respect to your desired outcome.

We are knowledgeable and experienced lawyers who prioritise the needs of our clients in their most difficult times. With decades of knowledge and experience amongst our lawyers, our goal is to cater to your individual needs and provide you with the assurance you need to navigate through your criminal matter. We will always have an experienced lawyer available to you in your hour of need. Should you wish to speak to one of our criminal law experts, please do not hesitate to contact our office directly and arrange a consultation.

No matter what issue you might be facing, our friendly team is standing by to help you with any enquiries you might have. Get the outcome you deserve, our expert team can help.

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