If you plead guilty, you are agreeing that you committed the offence that you have been charged with. You are able to 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.
The prosecutor (most cases in the Magistrates Court are prosecuted by the police) will then give the court a summary of the facts surrounding the offence. The presiding magistrate will then ask if you want to say anything about the matter. When talking to the magistrate you should address him or her as “your Honour”.
If you have already had legal advice (or you don’t want legal advice), your matter can usually be finalised at the first hearing. You may be convicted, or the magistrate 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.
Usually you will also be ordered to pay:
- Court costs – these will vary depending on whether there is one offence, or two or more offences on the same charge sheet
- Criminal Injuries Compensation levy – this is a mandatory cost and cannot be waived by the Magistrate
- Prosecution costs – the amount can vary depending on the circumstances
- Compensation – if as a result of your offence, someone is out of pocket – eg, you have damaged someone’s property
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 cannot 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 have to 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.