Each of us goes through a lot of “firsts” in our lives: first words, first job, first home – one “first” that most of us are eager to avoid however is our first criminal offence.
The thing with “firsts” is that, well, it’s the first time – how do you know what to do?
For your first offence, a criminal lawyer is essential (this holds for any criminal offence, but especially your first).
In addition to representing you in court, our criminal law firm in Melbourne CBD can help you make sense of the entire process as well as your rights and options from the initial police interview to the appeals process.
Part of that includes educating you about what the criminal process involves, as well as answering the most frequently asked questions.
Question 1: What sort of penalties could I face? Can I go to jail?
Many first-time offenders find themselves asking about whether or not they’ll go to jail – if you ask our criminal lawyers however, that’s the wrong question to be asking.
While each crime has a prescribed maximum penalty – often jail time – there’s nothing that says a judge or magistrate will prescribe such a penalty in your unique situation.
Depending on the circumstances, they might think a lesser sentence is more appropriate.
There are a lot of things that a judge or magistrate looks at when making their final call – for our purposes, the most important one is whether or not this is your first offence.
As a general rule, first-offences tend to come with more lenient sentences, especially if you have a history of good behaviour.
In the event that you are convicted, the sentencing magistrate or judge may:
- Reduce sentence length
- Levy a lower fine
- Offer alternative sentencing
Of course, there are exceptions. Some crimes are so serious, they carry a mandatory sentence. Even in these cases however, our criminal solicitors work hard to avoid the courts placing a mandatory sentence in your case, mounting an argument for special consideration when possible.
During the leadup to your court date, our criminal solicitors in Dandenong can tell you what sorts of penalties you might be looking at, as well as any circumstances we may be able to use to argue for a better outcome.
Question 2: Will I have to attend court?
Under normal circumstances, you will need to appear before a court if:
- You are placed on bail
- You are charged on summons (but not on each occasion)
- You are being held in custody
Special arrangements are available for you to appear via video link, helping you if you can’t attend in-person.
If you simply decide not to show up without making alternate arrangements with the court, you might find an arrest warrant filed for you, as well as new charges filed against you for skipping your court date.
Of course, 2020 hasn’t exactly been normal.
You should always ask your lawyer about when you have to attend court – especially at the moment, with COVID-19 dramatically changing court procedure.
Thanks to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, alternative arrangements are being expanded to cover a much wider range of court cases until restrictions are eased. Only in some exceptional situations will you be advised to attend court in-person.
Instead, many cases are now being adjourned without appearances, or being heard via WebEx, eliminating the need for you to attend in-person.
Ultimately, this is a tough question to answer, especially given the exceptional circumstances we’re going through at the moment. The only way to get a solid answer is to get in touch with a criminal lawyer in Dandenong who will go through your case and tell you what’s most likely to happen.
Question 3: “What’s my role in the process?”
In the lead up to your day in court, you’ll need to work closely with your criminal defence lawyer to formulate a legal strategy.
We’ll do all the grunt work, look at what evidence the prosecution has, determine the most likely outcome and decide the best course of action.
While we can hash out the details for you, as the client, you’re the one calling the shots.
Our criminal defence lawyers are responsible for doing most of the work in your criminal defence, bringing our legal expertise to bear.
However, it’s still your case – we can’t argue in your favour unless we have your input to work with.
That requires you to be completely upfront and honest about anything and everything that may affect your case.
It requires you to talk to us and respond to our questions while we try to devise a legal strategy.
And most importantly, it requires you to actively participate in forming your own defence.
Question 4: Do I need a criminal lawyer?
While there’s no law against going in without a lawyer – what we in the legal profession refer to as self-representing – in the vast majority of cases we don’t advise it.
When you self-represent, you aren’t just presenting in court – you’re also responsible for all of the legal grunt work and legal procedure that’s required in the lead-up to a court appearance:
- Researching the relevant statute
- Compiling and submitting evidence
- Preparing, serving and filing documents
- Going through the discovery process
- Devising a legal strategy
It’s a lot of work and procedure – unless you’re immersed in criminal law or are a practicing criminal lawyer yourself, it’s easy to miss something or mess up one of the steps.
Not to mention, it’s a lot of added stress to what’s already a high-stress situation. Do you really want to make things more difficult for yourself by eschewing a criminal lawyer’s services?
For many people who choose to self-represent anyway, it’s because they’re worried that consulting a criminal defence lawyer could drive them to bankruptcy.
We understand the concern, which is why our legal team offers legal aid for criminal cases, ensuring that you have the best possible chance of getting the ideal outcome.
Call our criminal lawyers in Dandenong
Legal aid criminal lawyers
We mentioned this above – however, this service is so important, we felt that it deserves its own section!
A good criminal solicitor can mean the difference between a successful defence and a more severe sentence. We believe that everyone has a right to a just outcome – we also believe that money shouldn’t stop you from getting the legal representation you deserve.
That’s why our criminal defence lawyers offer legal aid in Melbourne for those who need it. We’re committed to upholding your rights and fighting for a fairer outcome, regardless of your ability to pay.
Get in touch today
Whether you need someone to take care of your criminal defence or simply need help understanding your options, the right legal advice is crucial.
That’s why we’re here: to help see that justice is done.
Our criminal lawyers in Dandenong represent you in a wide variety of criminal cases from the Magistrates Court up to the Supreme Court of Victoria. Whatever you need help with, you can trust our team to fight on your behalf.