Before you plead guilty it is suggested you obtain legal advice. If you plead guilty, you are agreeing that you committed the offence that you have been charged with. You or your lawyer, if you are represented, can provide the Court with the circumstances surrounding why you committed the offence, and the Court can take this into consideration when considering the penalty you will be given.

After you have pleaded guilty, the prosecutor will give the court a summary of the facts surrounding the offence. The Judicial Officer will then ask if you want to say anything about the matter. This is when you have the opportunity to provide the court with circumstances that may reduce the penalty imposed or in special cases avoid a conviction. When talking to the Judicial Officer you should address them as “your Honour”.

If you have already had legal advice (or you don’t want legal advice) and imprisonment is not an option as a sentence your matter can usually be finalised at the first hearing without you attending (if you have completed a form 51). You may be convicted, or the Judicial Officer may find the charge proved without recording a conviction. With or without a conviction, a penalty is usually imposed. The penalty may be a fine, good behaviour bond, community service order and/or (for driving-related offences) disqualification of your driver’s licence.

The Sentencing Act 2017 provides for a series of discounts for pleas of guilty dealt with by a sentencing court for summary or minor indictable offences and a reduction of sentences for guilty pleas in other cases. The maximum discount available is higher the earlier the guilty plea is entered. There is also the ability for the court to provide a reduction in sentence for cooperation. Usually, you will also be ordered to pay:

  • Court costs – these are set by the Parliament and are reviewed every year. These will vary depending on whether there are one offence, or two or more offences on the same charge sheet
  • Victims of Crime Levy – this is a mandatory cost for State offences only and cannot be waived by the Magistrate. It will vary depending on the type of offence and/or severity of the offence.
  • Prosecution costs/counsel fees – the amount can vary depending on who appears for the prosecution and their qualifications. There are recommended amounts and are awarded at the discretion of the presiding officer
  • Compensation – if as a result of your offence, someone is out of pocket – eg, you have damaged someone’s property.

In the Youth Court the application of any court costs, levies and prosecution costs is at the discretion of the presiding officer.

There are other costs that are occasionally ordered such as service fees, witness fees or search fees. These will be applied for by the prosecution/counsel and awarded at the discretion of the presiding officer.

For offences which may incur a penalty of imprisonment, it is unlikely that your matter will be dealt with on the first occasion or without legal representation.

If your matter is not be finalised on the first occasion, your case will put off to another date. This is called an adjournment. If you are on bail, it is called being remanded to another date. Remand or adjournment, it is important that you know and remember the next date you must appear. Usually, the Sheriff’s Officer or court officer will give you a note with the next date on it. If that doesn’t happen you should ask the court staff for a written note of the date.