Of course, one hopes that this situation never arises, but with crime figures rising, you could find yourself a suspect in a criminal case, and in such a situation, it is essential to seek out the services of experienced legal counsel. In the event this were to happen, here are some very important points to bear in mind.
- Seek Legal Advice – This is the first thing you should do when you are informed of the criminal charge. There are a number of ways a criminal charge can be issued in Australia, namely, 1) Arrest- Where the police escort you to the police station, 2) Complaint and Summons – This is issued by a court, and you will be summoned to appear at a Magistrates court shortly after to answer the charges, and 3) Notice to Appear – This can be issued by the police on the spot. As soon as you are aware of a criminal charge, you should ask to speak to a lawyer, and there are experienced criminal lawyers in Perth, for example, who are on call round the clock, and it is best to say nothing until you have consulted with a lawyer.
- Understanding the Charge Sheet – In Australia, once a person has been charged with a criminal offence, they would receive a charge sheet, which provides details of the charge. If you were arrested, the charge sheet is much more detailed than that of a notice to appear, and it is vital that you fully understand the charges prior to deciding whether to plead guilty or not guilty.
- Police Prosecution File – As soon as you have been formally charged with a criminal offence, your lawyer would ask to see the police prosecution file, a document that contains detailed information about the charge(s). This would include any prosecution witness statements, the accused person’s criminal history, plus a detailed summary of the offences committed, and your legal counsel would use this as a foundation for preparing your defence.
- Say Nothingin Reply – It is your legal right not to say anything when charged with a criminal offence, and according to Australian law, the accused must be read their rights by the arresting police officer. The officer would state that anything you say, can be used as evidence against you in a court of law, and for this reason, aside from acknowledging the charges that have been made, you should refrain from making any comment and ask to see your solicitor. It is a good ideal to source an experienced criminal lawyer and store their number in your smartphone, as you never know when you might need it.
If you are ever charged with a criminal offence, do not panic and seek out expert legal advice from the very outset, and such is the law, that if you are not financially able to hire a lawyer to represent you, the state will pay for the service on your behalf.