Communtity Law Manual | Criminal Courts | How criminal cases begin: Pleading, bail and name suppression

How criminal cases begin: Pleading, bail and name suppression

Your first day at court: Overview

First appearances at the District Court are usually at 9 am (unless you are in custody). Most commonly, you will appear before a registrar of the court. If you are pleading guilty, or are attending court for sentencing, a case review or a family violence court appearance, your appearance will usually be at 10 am. If you are unsure, you can call the District Court and ask what time you are expected, or check your bail bond or summons, which will state the time you are expected at court.

At court, if you do not have a lawyer, you should ask to see a duty lawyer. The duty lawyer will assist you (the defendant) to liaise with police to obtain information regarding the charge (“disclosure”), advise you about the seriousness of the charge and whether you may be eligible for legal aid and, if appropriate, will assist you to apply for legal aid.

If you are not pleading guilty (which might mean that the charge is serious, that legal aid is appropriate, that you want to defend the charge, or that disclosure is not available), the duty lawyer can assist you by “remanding” the case to another date. That date will be in either two or three weeks. You will be required to enter a plea to the charge on that second date, and if you don't, a plea of not guilty will usually be entered for you by the court. A registrar is able to deal with remands if both you and the police agree on the terms of the remand.

Some courts operate a registrar's court. Other courts simply have a registrar's kiosk, which means that you will not have to enter a courtroom on your first appearance.

If you are pleading guilty, and it is a less serious offence that the duty lawyer is comfortable dealing with on the day, the duty lawyer will advise the registrar of this, and the matter will be put through to the judge's list on the same day. You will be called into court once the court opens.

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