Every week across Australia people of all walks of life are charged with criminal offences and ordered to appear before a court.
Charges can range from traffic offences to assault, but regardless of what charges you face being accused of breaking the law is serious and the consequences can be severe if you are convicted.
As a defendant you have the right to represent yourself in a court hearing, but few of us have the required knowledge and confidence to navigate our way through the court system.
Here are five reasons why you need a lawyer to represent you:
Understanding the charges
A criminal lawyer has detailed knowledge of the law and can explain to you what charges you are facing. They can help you to understand what the police or prosecution alleges you have done and what penalties you will face should you be convicted.
Advice on what to do
You will be required to answer the charges, but you have the right to plead either guilty or not guilty to all or some of the charges. A criminal lawyer is obliged to take and follow your instructions, but they can advise you on your options and on the consequences of your choices.
It is up to the police or prosecution to prove the charges against you and in order to do this they will gather evidence against you. A criminal lawyer can access this information, which might include witness statements and photos, and read and analyse it for you.
Preparing your case
Whether you decided to accept or fight the charges, you will still be required to appear in court. A criminal lawyer can help you prepare your case by assessing the evidence against you, putting together material to support you, finding witnesses, preparing you if you need to take the stand and obtaining character references for you.
Appear in court for you
Once your case is ready to proceed, a criminal lawyer will appear in court with you. They will run your case for you. They can speak on your behalf, explain to the court why you have pleaded guilty or not guilty, present documents to the court, call and question witnesses and recommend an appropriate sentence if required.