What happens when/if I plead guilty?
When you chose to plead guilty to criminal charges, you accept the allegations against you and admit that you committed the offence. Even when legally represented, most Magistrates and Judges will require you to enter your own plea and confirm that there has been no threat, promise or inducement for you to plead guilty.
A court process will determine the appropriate penalty for you to receive. In the District and Supreme Court of Queensland, these proceedings is called a “sentence”. In the Magistrates Court of Queensland, it is called a “plea”.
The purpose of being sentenced for an offence/offences is to:-
- punish the offender
- provide a deterrent for any future similar conduct
- balance the personal circumstances with the rehabilitation prospects of the offender
Following your sentence, your matter is generally at an end subject to any appeals. In certain circumstances where you breach the sentencing conditions, you can get re-sentenced for the offence.
Please note: this information is designed to provide a simple overview of the plea of guilty process and should not be relied upon instead of legal advice.
Negotiations often take place between your Lawyer and Prosecutions in the lead up to your matter being heard. This can be about the factual basis to be placed before a Magistrate, the charge itself and whether a more appropriate lesser charge is available, and any special circumstances that you may have.
Your Lawyer will prepare your case thoroughly to ensure that all necessary information is put before the Court and may ask you to provide medical reports and character references to support your position.
The plea or sentence can take anywhere from a few minutes to many hours, in rare cases, over a couple of days. This depends upon the complexity of the matter and the amount of documents provided to the Judge or Magistrate.
When your sentencing hearing commences, the court will ask you to confirm that you are pleading guilty. The District and Supreme Courts, have a process called an “Arraignment” where you formally enter your plea of guilty and either then or at a later date, your matter will proceed to the sentence.
The prosecutor is the first to speak and will outline the facts supporting the allegations against you. The prosecutor may make submission on an appropriate sentence to be imposed and in the District and Supreme Court, will provide the Judge with copies of comparable decisions imposed in previous cases of a similar nature. In some circumstances, the Prosecutor will provide the Court with documents supporting an Order for Restitution (where you pay for the damage or loss caused) or a Victims Impact Statement.
Once the Prosecutor is finished, it is time for your Lawyer to speak on your behalf. In some circumstances, you may have a Barrister appear on your behalf. Your Lawyer/Barrister will usually make submissions to the court about:-
- Your version of the facts alleged against you.
- Your personal circumstances (employment, upbringing and current situation in life, etc.).
- The appropriate penalty that the court should consider.
After your Lawyer/Barrister has finished making submissions, the Magistrate or Judge may ask further questions or seek clarification about issues.
There are a number of sentencing options available to the Magistrate or Judge. The sentencing options will depend upon the seriousness of the offence, whether the offence involves violence, your criminal history, and what previous Judges and legislation says is the most appropriate penalty range. Your Lawyer will advise you in advance which penalties are most likely to be imposed in your case and discuss with you your obligations in detail.
These options include:-
- Good behaviour bond
- Community Service
- Intensive Correction Order
- Wholly suspended jail term
- Actual jail term with or without a parole release date or parole eligibility date.
In some cases, you can receive a combination of these sentencing options.
Your outcome will be forward to you in correspondence from your Lawyer by either email or letter (to the address on your file). When you are expected to fulfill certain requirements following your sentence, you will be notified of those conditions. If you breach those conditions (or Orders of the Court), then you may be brought back to be dealt with on the breach and further re-sentenced for the original offence.
You have the right to appeal against the sentence imposed upon you if it is thought that the sentence imposed incorrect. Similarly, the Prosecution may also appeal the sentence if they believe it was too light. There is strict time limits in order to Appeal and this will be brought to your attention in the correspondence forwarded following your sentence by your Lawyer with also a recommendation as to whether or not you should appeal. It is essential that if you wish to Appeal, you consult a Lawyer immediately.
Following your sentencing, any victim who has suffered personal injury as a result of your offending behaviour may seek to bring an application for compensation against you. By pleading guilty you may not have a defence to an application for compensation made against you. Our appointment to act as your Lawyer does not extend to providing advice in relation to these compensation claims. If you require advice on this issue you should provide instructions to another law firm to provide that advice.
Recording of a Conviction
In imposing sentence, the Magistrate or Judge will decide whether or not to record a conviction against you.
It is a discretion of the Magistrate or Judge and cannot usually be appealed.
If a conviction is recorded, it becomes a part of your criminal history.
If it is not recorded, then you may publicly deny that you have any criminal history for that offence.
There are some exceptions to this, such as when applying for some specific licence, tenders or jobs, and you should seek further advice from the relevant statutory authorities about disclosure requirements prior to your sentence or plea. For some sentencing penalties such as wholly suspended jail, and actual jail, the Magistrate or Judge has no discretion and must record a conviction.
The discretion not to record a conviction is usually used by a Magistrate or Judge for first time offenders, where the offence is not too serious.
What to do next
In Queensland, the consequences of pleading guilty may include fines, probation and/or community services, as well as a custodial sentence. A conviction may be recorded which will impact on your ability to obtain employment and travel overseas.
It is important that you have legal representation that is experienced in dealing with criminal law offences.
Bamberry Lawyers Pty Ltd practices solely in criminal defence law (which includes traffic and domestic violence matters). This forms our area of expertise and our lawyers are in Court every day, not every once in a while. We are highly experienced and we care about achieving a good outcome.
Many of our new clients are referred to us by other Solicitors and past clients. This speaks volumes as to Bamberry Lawyers Pty Ltd’ reputation.
Take control of your matter by engaging quality and experienced representation.