Road Traffic Offences

4 Easy Tips to Help Your Criminal Lawyer Help You

Whatever your experience with the criminal justice system, there are a few things you can do when charged with a criminal offence to make it easier for your lawyer.

Whatever your experience with the criminal justice system, there are a few things you can do when charged with a criminal offence to make it easier for your lawyer.


 

Not everyone has a criminal lawyer on speed-dial. Some people may never have dealt with a lawyer before. But whatever your experience with the criminal justice system, there are a few things you can do when charged with a criminal offence to make it easier for your lawyer, or any lawyer you later approach for representation, to assist you.

1. DO NOT SAY ANYTHING (unless required by law to do so)

You may be approached by police to voluntarily accompany them to the station to assist with enquiries or you may be arrested and therefore must attend with police. Either way, in most situations, you do not have to answer police questions. In general, the only information you must provide to police is your correct name, date of birth and address.

There are some specific situations (ie. in Western Australia under the Misuse of Drugs Act and Firearms Act) where it is an offence not to answer questions. While this article does not explore such situations, if you are unsure whether you are required to answer a particular question or not – ask the police officer ‘does the law require me to answer that question?’ Your right to refuse to answer questions about other matters, even if asked in the same interview, still applies. If in doubt, seek legal advice.

Participating in voluntary interviews, conversations or providing a statement can (and usually are) used in Court later down the track. By answering questions without legal advice, in what is most likely a stressful situation for you, you have already had your chance to explain your version of events. While you may later give evidence in Court to explain further, your evidence will be scrutinized for inconsistencies with anything you said to police previously and this can effect how your evidence is perceived by the Court.

2. KEEP ALL PAPERWORK PROVIDED

This is a convenience and efficiency tip. The paperwork provided to you by police before or at your first Court appearance usually includes:

– A Prosecution Notice

– A Court Hearing Notice/Summons

– A Bail Notice (if you are on bail)

– The Statement of Material Facts

– A notice stating whether you do or do not have a criminal record (and sometimes a copy of your criminal record)

These documents provide your criminal lawyer with the information they need to give you advice and guidance. From these documents collectively, your lawyer can tell exactly what charge you are facing, the alleged facts of what occurred, when your first Court date is, whether you have the choice about attending Court or whether you must attend (and what happens if you don’t) and whether you have a criminal record that is relevant.

If this paperwork is lost, you or your lawyer will need to request another copy from police which can take time and cause delays. Your lawyer is also unlikely to be able to give you in depth advice until reading these documents.

3. KNOW YOUR BAIL CONDITIONS (and comply with them!)

Dealing with criminal charges is stressful enough. Dealing with subsequent allegations of breaches of bail is a distraction and can usually be avoided. Unfortunately, people can sometimes inadvertently commit a breach of bail offence through lack of understanding or carelessness. If arrested and charged, you may be released on bail by police to appear in Court at a particular date and time. Bail can be just the promise to attend Court when required (referred to as a ‘personal undertaking’) or your bail can include further conditions. Bail conditions are also considered by the Court at your appearance(s).

Some common conditions of bail are that:

– You must pay an amount of money if you do not attend court

– Someone who has agreed to be your ‘surety’ must pay an amount of money if you do not attend Court (ie. a family member)

– You must not contact a particular person (usually the alleged victim or witnesses)

– You must not attend a particular place

– You must report to a police station on specific days

– You must be at home between particular times (a curfew)

– You must surrender your passport

It is important that you do not forget about Court or breach your conditions. Failing to attend Court without reasonable excuse, or breaching any bail condition, is an offence. The penalty for this offence can include imprisonment and the Court may no longer trust you to be in the community while your matter is dealt with by the Court. If you do not attend Court, the Court will likely issue a warrant for your arrest. If you have a good reason that you cannot attend (like a genuine medical emergency) it is preferable if your lawyer attends to explain the situation with any documents that substantiate the reason for non-attendance.

4. KEEP IN CONTACT

Finally, as simple as it may sound, it is important that your criminal lawyer has your current contact details. If you change telephone numbers or addresses, let their office know so that they can contact you when needed. It is also imperative that you tell your lawyer if anything new arises in your legal matter or if something relevant changes in your personal circumstances.

As indicated above, your lawyer is the person the Court relies on to keep it informed. A criminal lawyer is the person the prosecution will negotiate with. But a lawyer acts on instructions from their client and if you are not contactable (especially in the lead up to making big decisions) there is not much your lawyer can do to progress your matter. And if you miss Court and your lawyer is unable to explain why, it is likely you will have a warrant issued for your arrest.

If you can do these 4 simple things for your criminal lawyer, then they will be in a much better position to assist you.

TGB has leading criminal lawyers in Western Australia, South Australia and Northern Territory. For advice, contact us.