First Criminal Law Offence
This is definitely the best position to be in – charged with a first offence instead of your tenth. Generally the opportunities for getting you off without a conviction are greater. It can sometimes be, done without having to fight the case through to a trial. You may be eligible for a relatively informal process known as diversion or it might well be that we can plea-bargain your case and resolve it at what’s known as a case review hearing.
Diversion a process where the police and the defendant agree that if the defendant completes an undertaking then the charge will be withdrawn. For example it might be that you promise the police that you will attend counselling for an addiction problem and/or do some community work and/or make a charitable donation etc. It is generally only possible to get diversion once in your life.
Eligibility for diversion depends on your circumstances. It will usually only be available when:
- It is a first offence, or for example, your previous offending was different and/or long ago;
- The offence does not carry an automatic disqualification of licence; and
- The offence is on the less serious end of the spectrum.
Case Review Hearing
A Case Review Hearing (“CRH”)is a relatively informal court hearing in front of a judge. Such a hearing usually occurs several weeks to several months after the first appearance date. The objective is to see if the case can be resolved without going on through to a much more formal and ‘real’ court hearing called a ‘defended hearing’ (also called a ‘judge alone trial’ or ‘JAT’) which would probably be several months later again.
Patrick likes to call the case review hearing court “the deal court”. It’s often a very suitable forum for plea-bargaining the case. A plea bargain is a deal between the police and the defence which can then be put before a judge ideally at a case review hearing. The objective is to have the judge approve the deal.
Newly charged defendants are often worried by reading about potential penalties. Penalty sections in legislation only state maximum sentence. When deciding on a sentence a judge will generally indicate a sentence as a starting point and depending on your situation, then apply factors that will reduce (or sometimes increase) the sentence. So do no fret as it is most likely you will receive a sentence less than that stated in the legislation under which you have been charged.
For example, an assault charge may mean a community work sentence as a starting point. The judge will then factor in circumstances such as who the alleged victim was and the extent of injury sustained, whether you were generally cooperative with the police and have expressed remorse, etc. *
*Although remember – you are entitled not to make a statement to the police and you should not make a statement. The court cannot hold the fact that you did not make a statement against you.
If you have a previous criminal law conviction
If you do have previous convictions, don’t despair. We have been able to achieve very positive outcomes for out clients with prior convictions. Indeed a case review hearing can often be the perfect place to resolve a ‘non-first offence’ case
What about the exact criminal law charge you’re facing?
The Crimes Act and other Acts list offence after offence. There are alas too many to go into here. Contact us for a FREE assessment of your actual situation, call us today!