Being charged with a criminal offence is serious. It can be one of the most challenging experiences anyone can face. We understand being accused of a criminal offence will change your life forever. Until your charge is finalised, it will continue to hang over your head and be the biggest problem in your life. You will be wondering, if I am convicted of what the police say I did, what will happen to my family, friends, home, reputation, job, and will they send me to prison?
How you respond to a charge can have significant consequences for you. The best thing you can do is to get an experienced criminal lawyer on your side.
In Queensland, the way persons are charged will vary depending on the criminal offence. In this article, we explain what to do if you are charged with a criminal offence and how we can help you. We wrote this article because we are here to help you. When you hire our lawyers to represent you, they are here to fight for you and protect your interests. Your problems become our problems. If you are looking for a law firm who will defend you as they would a family member, then look no further.
We hope you find this article helpful. If you have any questions specific to your situation, please contact our office on (07) 3153 6215 and we will help you.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I AM CHARGED?
When a person is charged with a criminal offence, it means they are alleged to have committed it. There are 3 ways persons are charged with criminal offences in Queensland.
Police physically take you to the watch-house, where they formally charge you with the offence. You will either be remanded in custody or given bail to appear in a Magistrates Court.
Police will give you a small piece of paper called a ‘Notice-to-Appear’. Police will write out the notice-to-appear and give it to you on-the-spot or after they have taken you to a police station. The notice-to-appear is later sent to the prosecution so it can be given to the Court.
The Notice-to-Appear should include:
- a description of the offence you are charged with.
- the Magistrates Court where you must appear to answer the charge.
- the date you must appear in the Magistrates Court.
If you are issued the notice-to-appear you must appear in Court on the date on the notice. If you do not appear a Bail Act warrant is likely to be issued for your arrest. In some circumstances, the Court may deal with your matter in your absence and sentence you without you having any say.
A summons is a document commanding a person to attend a court at a time and place. It is not common for people to be issued a summons. The Queensland Police Service Operations and Procedures Manual tells police officers to only use a summons if it is not practical for them to issue a notice-to-appear.
There are three parts to a summons:
1. The Complaint- this is the information supporting the issuing of the summons.
2. The Summons- the person who is issued the summons, the time and the Court where the person must attend.
3. Oath of Service- the person who gave the summons to the person named in it must swear on Oath before a Justice of the Peace that it was given to the person named in it.
Depending on the offence police allege you committed, this will determine the way they will charge you. For example, if police allege you committed a rape, they will arrest you. However, if they allege you possessed a small amount of cannabis, they will probably issue you a notice-to-appear.
Police often arrest people so they can either place them on bail or hold them in custody until they appear in Court. If a police officer issues a person a notice-to-appear, this means the person will not be placed on bail until they go to Court. It will be up to the Magistrate to decide if the person should get bail and what bail conditions there are to be. Whereas if the police arrest a person, they can initially have some control over bail.
Making sure you turn up to Court on the date noted on a notice-to-appear, summons or bail undertaking is critical. A failure to go to Court when required can result in more criminal charges for you. In some situations, you may find a warrant being issued for your arrest. It is a lot easier and causes fewer headaches for everyone if you go to Court when you are required to.
WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER I HAVE BEEN CHARGED?
After police charge you with a criminal offence, there are several things you will need to do.
Firstly, you need to make sure you know:
1. The offence you have been charged with.
2. If you are required to attend a police station to have your identifying particulars taken. You will know because police will have served you with a notice.
3. If you have any bail conditions, if the police arrested you and placed you on bail. You need to comply with each bail condition, otherwise you could be charged with an offence of breaching it.
Secondly, you need to know what police are alleging you did, and if they say you have any criminal history. When a person is charged with a criminal offence, the arresting officer prepares a document called a “QP9 Court Brief”. The QP9 Court Brief will tell you things like:
1. The offence you are charged with.
2. The date of the alleged offence.
3.The name of any alleged complainant/victim.
4. A summary of the facts police allege for the offence.
5. Details of any property damage you allegedly caused.
It is important you review the QP9 Court Brief with a criminal lawyer, so you are prepared for your court date. When you go to Court, you or your lawyer needs to be in a position to tell the Magistrate what you want to do (e.g. plead guilty, go to trial, request evidence to be disclosed etc.). Our criminal lawyers request a copy of the QP9 Court Brief from the prosecution for our clients before Court. This enables us to be prepared and not ambushed by the prosecution when we go to Court.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE DIFFERENT PLEAS?
When charged with a criminal offence you will need to decide if you are pleading guilty or pleading not guilty. Depending on what you decide will determine the course your charge will take.
If the charge can be finalised in the Magistrates Court and you decide to plead guilty, the process is straightforward. If you enter a not guilty plea, then your charge will be listed for trial. We discuss in detail the court process for charges finalised in the Magistrates Court here.
If the charge must be finalised in the District or Supreme Court, the process is more complicated. Your charge will go through the committal process before going to the higher Court. We discuss the committal process in depth here.
Before your first court date it is imperative you have a chat with a criminal lawyer and get them to review the QP9 Court Brief. This will place you in a far better position than turning up to court without full knowledge of what is being alleged.
THE BEST LEGAL REPRESENTATION
If you have charged with a criminal offence, get legal advice now. Don’t sit back thinking the charge will go away- it won’t. Every criminal offence is serious and can have serious consequences for you. You need the experience of the Criminal Lawyers Brisbane Group in your corner fighting for you. Pick up the phone and dial (07) 3153 6215 or fill out the form below for a free no-obligation chat. Contacting us may be the best thing you do.