- Preparing for court
- Changing your plea
- Presenting your guilty plea at court
- Pleading guilty in writing
- Case study
If you plead guilty, it means that you admit you broke the law. However, you may have had a good reason for committing the offence or there may be another reason why you feel the fine is harsh. If this is the case, you may want to plead guilty with an explanation so that you can ask the court for leniency, for example, a smaller fine or no fine at all.
Before pleading guilty you should get legal advice.
When you receive the Court Attendance Notice (CAN) it will tell you which court you have to go to, and the date and time your case will be heard.
The first time you have to go to court is called a 'mention'. If you plead guilty, your case will usually be dealt with on that date, and you will be sentenced for the offence.
For more information about what happens at the mention, see Mention.
Before you go to court for the mention, you should consider:
- the fine that you received
- why you received the fine
- whether you have a good explanation for the offence
- the maximum penalty that can be given by the court
- what you can tell the court to try and explain the offence
- who could write a character reference for you
- your criminal and driving history and any offences that you have been convicted of.
The maximum fine a court can give you is usually higher than the original fine. If you want to know what the maximum fine is for a particular offence, you should get legal advice.
Step by step guide: For information about preparing for court, see Preparing for court (pleading guilty) - Step by step guide.
If you entered a plea of not guilty at the mention or in writing, you can change your plea to guilty before the hearing. If you change your plea on the day of the hearing you may be ordered to pay the costs of the prosecution attending the hearing.
If you want to try and avoid these costs, you can file an Application to Vacate a Hearing Date.
For a copy of the application form, go to the Local Courts website.
Before you apply to vacate a hearing date, you should get legal advice.
If you entered a plea of guilty, you would need to have special circumstances to change your plea to not guilty. If you want to do this, you should get legal advice.
When you go to court for the mention, you will need to find the courtroom where your case will be heard. The court will usually put up a list of all the cases being heard that day. You should look for your name on the list, as it will tell you the courtroom you need to go to.
Some courts have 'call over' courts and other courts have 'list' courts. If you go to a call over, you may first appear before a registrar who will ask you how you intend to plead. If you tell the registrar you want to plead guilty, your case may be moved to another court for 'sentencing' before a magistrate. Other courts have list courts, where you appear before a magistrate straight away. The magistrate will ask you how you intend to plead. If you tell the magistrate you want to plead guilty, the magistrate will usually sentence you on the spot.
When you are sentenced there are many things that will happen:
- the prosecutor will give the magistrate a document setting out what happened when the offence was committed and your criminal and/or driving history (if you have a history)
- the magistrate will read the documents
- you will be asked if you want to say something (called 'making submissions'), or if you have any documents you would like to give to the court
- the magistrate will consider your submissions or documents, if any
- the magistrate will make a decision.
Step by step guide: For information about presenting your guilty plea at court, see Presenting your guilty plea at court - Step by step guide.
If you know you want to plead guilty, but you can't get to court on the date stated on the CAN, you may be able to fill out a form telling the court you want to plead guilty. This is called a 'Written Notice of Pleading'.
For more information, see Pleading guilty in writing.
Case study - Radha and City Rail
Radha usually buys a weekly ticket from her home to the city. Last Friday, when coming home from TAFE, a ticket inspector stopped Radha and asked to see her ticket. Radha looked everywhere for her ticket but could not find it in her bag or any of her pockets. Radha was fined $200 for travelling without a ticket. Radha has run out of time to ask for a review, but is sure that she bought a ticket at the beginning of that week. Radha has elected (chosen) to go to court and has been sent a Court Attendance Notice (CAN).
For answers to commonly asked questions, see Going to court - Frequently Asked Questions.