Before the First Court Appearance
1. Get Informed
When going to court for the first time, there are a number of things that you can do to get informed. In Queensland, it is likely that if you you will have been provided paperwork and possibly a recording by the police, such as:
- Notice to Appear
- Bench Charge Sheet
- Bail Undertaking
- Identifying Particulars Notice
Any documents, notices or other information you have received from the police should be kept for future reference. They may also provide a starting point to research the type of offence you are facing, as well as the possible penalties you may face. If you get advice from a lawyer, it is likely they will want to view any documents you have received from police.
Some people charged with an offence believe there is nothing that can be done until the first court date. Often that belief is simply wrong.
If you get informed about your legal options, you or your defence lawyer may be able to have the case resolved at the first mention. This could include negotiating with police to have the charge withdrawn, pursuing alternatives to criminal prosecution, or to plead guilty. However, if you have not obtained the necessary information, or potentially obtained the right legal advice, you may do something adverse to your interests. For this reason, you should always do what you can to get informed about your situation as early as possible ahead of going to court for the first appearance.
2. Ensure Compliance
If you have been arrested and charged with an offence, or have been given a Notice to Appear, you will have obligations placed on you. Failing to comply with the conditions of your bail undertaking, or failing to appear in court as required, can lead to a number of possible consequences, including the revocation of your bail and a warrant being issued for your arrest.
In Queensland, a person going to court for the first time will also have been required to give their identifying particulars and potentially to supply a sample of your DNA. If you fail to comply with the direction, you may be charged with a further offence by police.
It is important to ensure you comply strictly with your legal obligations, so far as is possible. There are occasions when, due to unexpected or intervening factors, you may not be able to comply with certain conditions or requirements.
If you are in any doubt about your legal rights or responsibilities, or find yourself in a position where you may not be able to comply with them, you should consult with a lawyer to get advice.
3. Protect Your Interests
The time between first dealing with police and the first court appearance can be a crucial time to protect your interests. It may be critical to gather evidence that may be important to your defence, which may be lost or destroyed as time passes. Surveillance footage or other records, as well as the possibility of identifying important witnesses, may all be lost due to the passage of time. In some cases, evidence that could prove important may not be obvious.
There are other risks that people face in seeking to protect their interests. Seeking to pervert the course of justice, destroying evidence or seeking to improperly influence witnesses, may not only be contrary to your interests but could constitute a criminal offence.
Acting quickly to protect your interests ahead of going to court for the first time may make a real difference to your case and the ultimate outcome.
If you believe there is evidence that should be gathered, or are simply unsure as to how to go about protecting your interests, we can help. If you want to get advice from one of our lawyers, or seek assistance to gather relevant evidence to assist in your response to allegations or charges, we can provide responsive advice and representation.
4. Dress Appropriately
Judges and Magistrates in Queensland expect members of the community to dress appropriately for the formal and solemn setting of a courtroom. In a place where the rights, interests and liberties of individuals are altered and changed every day, it is expected that the way people dress for court will match the occasion.
How a person dresses for a court proceeding may say something about how they regard the court process. If you are going to court for the first time, it is worth considering ahead of time what clothing is appropriate for the occasion.
At the First Court Appearance
1. Bring Relevant Documents
If you have engaged a lawyer, it is likely they will bring the relevant documents that they have obtained from you or the prosecution.
If you are preparing to represent yourself in court, having your documents prepared and ordered can assist you to answer any questions from a prosecutor or a judicial officer (Judge or Magistrate).
At the first court appearance, you may be required to apply for bail from the court. Sometimes this is a mere formality and does not require any documents to be provided before bail is granted. In other cases, it may assist you to have evidence to support any arguments that may be made in relation to you obtaining bail.
2. Turn up Early
While you generally need to turn up in person for your first court appearance, there are occasions when a lawyer can appear on your behalf. If you do need to personally attend the first court appearance, whether you are represented by a lawyer or not, there are a number of good reasons to turn up early to court.
Fundamentally, if you fail to turn up to court on time you may be found to be in breach of your obligations to appear in court as required, which could see your bail revoked or a warrant issued for your arrest.
Turning up early can mean that your case is heard earlier than others and provide you or your lawyer an opportunity to negotiate with the prosecution. While people represented by lawyers generally have their case heard first, being early can reduce the time waiting for your case to be called.
Courts across Queensland have different ways of having people ‘check-in’ to note that they are present. In some courts, you must simply wait until your name is called. In others, you need to speak to a clerk of the court, court orderly, or the prosecutor. If you are not represented by a lawyer, contacting the registry of the relevant court ahead of time can help you to understand what to do when you turn up to court to ensure your attendance is noted.
3. Be Respectful
Going to court for the first time is a confronting experience for most people. For most people a courtroom is an unfamiliar place with a lot of formal rules and procedures. If you have a lawyer assisting you, it is common to receive advice about what to expect in the courtroom from start to finish.
A guiding principle for anybody going to a court – in any capacity – is to be respectful.
There are a number of ways to show respect, including:
- dressing appropriately for court;
- turning up early, or, at the very least, on time;
- speaking to court staff with courtesy;
- appropriately addressing the judicial officer as ‘Your Honour’; and,
- listening to the judicial officer if they are speaking.
4. Have a Plan
In going to court for the first time, you may have an expectation about what will happen. However, something may happen at court that will affect that plan, for better or worse.
In some instances, people expect to be able to have a trial on their first appearance. For criminal law cases in Queensland, trials are generally set down months (sometimes years) after the first court appearance. In other cases, people expect a number of matters that
If you are going to court for the first time and have informed yourself about the court process, either through independent research or by engaging a lawyer, you should know that it is ideal to have a plan about your case.
Generally, having a plan means knowing:
- what information you may need from the prosecution in order to know what you want to do in response to the allegations against you;
- whether you are in a position to make a decision about the allegations against you;
- what the consequences are for making certain decisions, such as pleading guilty; or
- if the case is adjourned, whether you will be available to attend the next court date.
What information you need to go to court for the first time, and how such information informs or affects the plan, will vary according to each case.
If you wish to consult with a lawyer about the options you have for your first appearance in court, contact one of our lawyers within Anderson Fredericks Turner.
Magistrates Court of Queensland: Our Work
Experienced Lawyers – Magistrates Court Cases
Lawyers in Anderson Fredericks Turner are experienced in Magistrates Court cases, conducting numerous cases across Queensland on a daily basis, particularly in Brisbane, Maroochydore, Southport and Townsville. Our lawyers also frequently travel to regional towns and centres to represent individuals in cases before the Magistrates Court. Contact us for advice and assistance with your case.
The Magistrates Court deals with an overwhelming majority of all court cases in Queensland. Under the Justices Act 1886 (Qld), it has jurisdiction in relation to criminal law cases, traffic law cases and civil disputes.
If an adult is charged with an offence, they will generally first appear in the Magistrates Court. If the person is a child, then they will appear in the Childrens Court. While Magistrates form part of the Childrens Court, it remains a specialist court that operates under different rules and many cases are closed to the public.
In Queensland, offences are separated into two categories:
- Criminal offences, which generally proceed in the Magistrates Court but some serious charges may only be dealt with on ‘indictment’ in the Supreme Court and District Court.
- Regulatory offences that may only proceed in the Magistrates Court.
The Magistrates Court may deal with criminal law cases where the offences does not need to be dealt with on indictment, or is classified as an offence that must proceed in the Magistrates Court. Except for a limited range of offences, Magistrates are able to hear and decide bail applications for when a person is first charged with an offence.
For cases that must proceed to the Supreme Court or District Court, the Magistrates Court generally performs the function of conducting a committal proceeding. Our experienced criminal defence lawyers can assist individuals in all cases before the Magistrates Court.
Domestic Violence Proceedings
The Magistrates Court deals with domestic and family violence proceedings. While domestic violence cases are civil applications, there are criminal consequences for breaching domestic violence protection orders.
Lawyers in Anderson Fredericks Turner have experience in successfully representing individuals dealing with domestic violence proceedings. We understand the importance of the outcomes to people and their families. Our lawyers focus on ensuring that where necessary or desirable in the interests of our clients, orders are obtained that reflect the protection required. Equally, our lawyers work to ensure that people who are accused of committing domestic violence are able to properly test allegations, so unnecessary orders are not made, given the serious consequences that can follow the making of a protection order.
The Magistrates Court hears most traffic law cases, although some serious traffic offences may only be dealt with in the District Court. While many traffic infringements do not require a court hearing, a person may exercise the option to challenge the infringement notice in court.
Beyond the penalties that may follow conviction for a traffic offence, it is often the consequences of vehicle impounding or licence disqualification that most concerns people. The loss of access to a vehicle, or loss of a driver licence, can have significant personal and financial consequences not just for an individual, but also their family.
Anderson Fredericks Turner can assist people with traffic issues, whether it be a case of drink driving right through to serious cases involving dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death.
In the Magistrates Court, people may litigate many civil disputes up to a value of $150,000. For civil disputes, costs can be awarded against unsuccessful litigants so it can be important to get legal advice in relation to civil disputes that may be before the Magistrates Court.