What Happens if You Plead Guilty in the Magistrates Court?
Author: Justin Craven, Brisbane Criminal Lawyer
When you plead guilty in the Magistrates Court we refer to the hearing as your “sentence”, because upon you entering your plea of guilty the Magistrate will sentence you for the offence/s.
If your sentence is heard in the Magistrates Court, then a Magistrate will preside over the hearing and determine what penalty to impose.
The process of a plea of guilty in the Magistrates Court is as follows: –
(1) Your matter is called on
The prosecutor will call your matter on by telling the Magistrate your name and that your matter is the next one to deal with.
When your matter is called on by the prosecutor, you will need to go up to the front of the courtroom and stand to the far left of the bar table (the table at the front of the courtroom). If you are legally represented you will stand to the left of your lawyer at the bar table. You or your lawyer will need to inform the Magistrate that you will be pleading guilty to the offence/s before the Court.
(2) The Magistrate reads out the charge
The Magistrate will then usually read out each charge to you and ask you how you want to plead (i.e. guilty or not guilty). Upon you entering a plea of guilty for each offence, you can sit down.
(3) The Prosecutor makes submissions
The Police Prosecutor or a representative from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will then stand up and make submissions to the Magistrate. These submissions will generally include details of the facts for each offence (which generally come directly from the QP9 Court Brief), details of any harm caused to any persons involved, details of any loss caused to any persons involved, aggravating features of the matter, the seriousness of the offence/s.
The Police Prosecutor/DPP representative may then provide cases (decisions made by other Magistrates or Judges in similar types of matters previously heard by the Court) to the Magistrate. The Prosecution does this to provide the Magistrate with a guide as to what they believe is the appropriate penalty. Alternatively, the Prosecution may tell the Magistrate what they believe is the appropriate penalty without referring to any cases.
(4) Defence makes submissions
Once the Police Prosecutor/ DPP representative has made their submissions, it is then time for your defence lawyer to make submissions to the Magistrate on your behalf. These submissions may include background personal information about you (your education, upbringing, employment history etc.), your personal circumstances, mitigating factors in your favour, circumstances relating to the offence/s, character references or medical reports and the appropriate penalty to be imposed.
(5) Magistrate decides what penalty to be imposed
Upon the defence lawyer making submissions on your behalf, you will need to stand and the Magistrate will pass their sentence (tell you what penalty they are imposing and the reasons for imposing the penalty they have).
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