Criminal law

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Intend to Plead Guilty?

If you have received a court summons and have decided to plead guilty it is crucial you obtain legal advice to ensure your rights are protected and that you receive the best outcome for your circumstances.

The severity of your penalty will not only impact upon you personally, but may have repercussions on your employment, family and friends.

In 2013 South Australia introduced a scheme of sentence discounts to encourage early guilty pleas. The basis for this scheme is that the recognition of one’s guilt represents a person’s remorse and contrition as well as easing the costs and influx of cases on the court system. Therefore, if you plead guilty to a criminal offence within four weeks of your first appearance at Court you are eligible to receive a sentence reduction of up to 40 percent. This discount is at the Judge or Magistrate’s discretion and applies to penalties including fines, and the length of a sentence of imprisonment. It usually does not apply to mandatory minimum drivers license disqualification periods or victims of crime levies and court fees.

Whilst potential discounts offer an incentive to entering an early guilty plea, it is crucial not to act hastily as there are important considerations to be made. At TGB our experienced defence lawyers will ensure not only that the Court is presented with appropriate sentencing considerations tailored to your personal circumstances but that you plead guilty to the correct charge and upon the correct factual basis.

Simply because you admit to wrongdoing does not always mean you are guilty of the crime police have charged you with. Ensuring you plead to the correct charge is important in eliminating a risk of receiving harsher penalties if convicted of a more serious offence.

A common example arises in relation to charges of assault. There are a range of assault offences which vary in severity of the maximum penalty. For example, a basic offence of assault attracts a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment whereas an offence of assault causing serious harm carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment. The exact charge will be dependent upon the circumstances of the case including the seriousness of injury suffered by the victim, whether the victim is considered a vulnerable person, whether or not a weapon was used in the assistance of the offending, and the intention of the accused in committing the assault. Your defence lawyer can provide valuable assistance in negotiating with police for a lesser charge where appropriate.

During sentencing the Court will listen to relevant considerations put forward by the prosecution and your lawyer. The Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988 sets out factors of consideration to be applied when determining a sentence. At TGB our lawyers are experienced in formulating which mitigating factors will be important in ensuring you receive the most appropriate penalty for your offending.

For example, although you may be hesitant to inform the Court about your personal circumstances including the existence of any mental health problems or substance abuse, this information may support the Court in imposing a penalty which focuses on your rehabilitation rather than the punishment of incarceration.

Where you are concerned about having a conviction recorded against your name, your lawyer can seek to have the matter dealt with without the recording of a conviction in circumstances where the offence is trivial or where a person is of good character, is unlikely to re-offend and has an otherwise good criminal history. This is often of specific importance to persons seeking particular types of employment or are concerned about the effects a conviction might have on overseas travel.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by simply reading this blog, it is important to remember that your lawyer will provide valuable guidance, updated advice and facilitate ease through the court process as a result of their experience and expertise. This will assist in reducing any worry and stress caused by the proceedings.

If you are facing criminal allegations arrange an appointment with Tindall Gask Bentley Lawyers to ensure the protection of your rights.