08 Jul Criminal Law
If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offence by the Victoria Police, you will either be:
- For serious offences, held in remand until your bail application hearing; or
- For less serious offences, released on bail immediately but you will be served with a summons to appear in court on a later date to face your charges.
Depending on the charge, your case may be heard in the Victorian Magistrates’ Court, the County Court, and the Supreme Court. Most offences are heard in the Magistrates’ Court and more serious offences are heard in the County and Supreme Court.
You have the right to appear in court self-represented or you can have a solicitor appear on your behalf. You can arrange a private solicitor to appear for you or if you are unable to afford a lawyer then you can arrange representation with Victoria Legal Aid (or a law firm who does pro bono or legal aid work).
You have the choice to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to your charge(s). If you plead “not guilty” then your case will go to trial. It is highly recommended that you arrange a solicitor for a trial to ensure your rights are protected and you understand the complexities of the case and court procedures.
If you choose to plead “guilty” then the court will sentence you in accordance with the law which may include imprisonment, a fine, a community corrections order, a good behaviour bond, etc. If you plead “no contest” then it means that on principal, you do not agree with the charges, but you will still be sentenced for the crime. A guilty or no contest plea will most likely remain on your criminal record. However, for certain offenders (young offenders, first time offenders, people with special circumstances) there may be other options that that the court will consider to help rehabilitate you.
If you are summonsed to appear in court and fail to appear then the court will most likely issue a warrant for your arrest.