Local Court > What to expect in court

Going to court for a criminal case    

If you have received a Court Attendance Notice, it will include details of the alleged offence, the court location the case is listed at and the date to attend.

If you are on bail for the offence you must attend unless the court has excused you from appearing. If you do not attend, the court may hear the case in your absence or can order that a warrant be issued for your arrest.

If you are not on bail you can lodge a Written Notice of Pleading form instead of attending court on the first occasion. 

Entering a plea 

In every criminal case the court will ask whether you are pleading guilty to the alleged offence or not guilty. If you are pleading not guilty a hearing will be held for witnesses to attend and give evidence.

You will usually be asked to enter a plea on the first day of court.

If you are not sure whether to plea guilty or not guilty you should get legal advice. 

The court process

The first date the case is listed is to enter a plea. 

Plea of guilty

If you enter a plea of guilty, the case will usually be finalised that day. The magistrate will:

  • ask the prosecutor for the facts relating to the offence
  • ask the prosecutor for the defendant's criminal record and / or traffic record

You will then have the opportunity to tell the magistrate about the offence, about yourself and whether there are any circumstances that you want the magistrate to consider when deciding what penalty to impose.

If you filed a Written Notice of Pleading instead of attending, the magistrate will take into account any information you have provided (see below).

The magistrate will then decide on the penalty. Depending on the order made, you may have to attend the court registry to sign papers. Check with the court officer in the courtroom. 

Plea of not guilty

If you entered a plea of not guilty the case will not be finalised that day. Depending on the type of case, the court will either list the case for a hearing, or will ask the prosecutor to prepare a brief of evidence before the case is listed for a hearing.

The court will ask each party how many witnesses they will call and whether there are any dates that parties or witnesses are unavailable. This will determine how much time is required for the hearing and when the hearing date is set down for.

If you filed a Written Notice of Pleading you will have provided this information on the form. The court registry will send you a Notice of Listing with details of the date the case is next listed.

Written Notice of Pleading

You can advise the court of your plea by completing and sending a form called Written Notice of Pleading.

You do not have to attend court if you file a Written Notice of Pleading at least seven days before the date listed on the Court Attendance Notice.

If you are unsure, contact the court registry and speak to court staff about your case.

Where a plea of guilty is given, the court will usually determine the matter that day. Include on the form your explanation about the offence and any information or exceptional circumstances you want the court to know. The court will decide whether a penalty should be imposed and what that penalty will be.

The court registry will only send you written notice of the outcome if a fine and/or court costs are imposed.

Where a plea of not guilty is given, the court will not determine the matter that day. The court will list the case on another day for witnesses to attend and give evidence. Include on the form how many witnesses you will bring for your case.

The court registry will send you a notice to advise of the date for the hearing. You will need to attend court on the hearing date and bring your witnesses.

Need an interpreter?

If you do not speak or understand english well, you can get an interpreter to assist you in court. The court can arrange an interpreter for you. If you need an interpreter contact the court at least fourteen days before the date of your court case.


Need help?

Call LawAccess 1300 888 529

Before starting any court proceedings you should check which court or tribunal is right for your matter. Call LawAccess NSW for help.

LawAccess NSW is a free government telephone service that provides legal information, referrals and in some cases, advice for people who have a legal problem in New South Wales.

Visit www.lawaccess.justice.nsw.gov.au

The Representing yourself section of the LawAccess website can help you if you have a legal problem in New South Wales. Representing yourself explains legal procedures and forms for court and tribunal cases. It provides:

  • step by step guides to starting and running your case
  • instructions for filling out court forms
  • checklists and frequently asked questions
  • information on alternatives to court
  • contacts for further information and advice

 

 

 

 

Need legal advice or information?     

Staff at the NSW Local Court cannot give legal advice. Find out where to get legal advice or information.

The information on this site is a guide only and is not legal advice - see disclaimer.