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Criminal Law

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I have a charge listed before a court. What is the process?

The path your charge will take depends on two main matters - whether you plead Guilty or Not Guilty to the charge, and the type of charge.

In either case, if you plead Not Guilty, your matter will be listed for hearing (in the Magistrates Court) or trial (in the Supreme Court), so that a decision can be made based on the evidence around your case. Whilst this can happen quickly, hearings and trials usually take many months to occur.

If you plead Guilty, the Prosecution will advise the Court as to the facts of the charge and you (or your lawyer) will be invited to put matters before the Court that may convince a court to lessen your penalty, called a plea in mitigation.

What do I need to do before my first court date?

If you are going to obtain legal advice or legal representation at Court, it is important to do this as early as possible. In some cases, this can allow negotiations or investigations to occur that might not be possible in the future.

You do have a right to an adjournment on your first appearance at Court. However, this is the only time that this is automatic - all other adjournments are only by permission of the Court, which may be unhappy with any perceived delays.

You (or your lawyer) can apply for some basic documents from Tasmania Police about your charges free of charge. These are the complaint (the formal statement of your charges), the facts for the Prosecutor (a summary of the allegations against you) and a copy of your statement of prior convictions.

I've been served with a Police Family Violence Order. What now?

Police officers are able to serve a Police Family Violence Order on a person if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a family violence offence has occurred - they do not have to be satisfied "beyond reasonable doubt" that it actually happened.

A Police Family Violence Order is normally made for a period of 12 months. Failure to comply with the order can carry a jail term of up to 12 months.  Until a Court or Tasmania Police overturn an order, you must comply with its terms, even if the other party does not wish to comply. For example: if an order says you cannot visit your former partner's address, you cannot go there even if they invite you to visit. Many people are charged for such breaches.