This information will assist you if you have been charged with a criminal offence and you are due to appear in court.
What should I do first?
The first thing to do is to work out how serious your situation is. This means you should get legal advice about the seriousness of your charge and the likely penalty you will receive if you are convicted of it. Being convicted means being found guilty or pleading guilty to the charge.
Where possible, you should get legal advice before appearing in court.
Where can I get legal advice?
If you are able to pay for a lawyer yourself, you can get advice that way.
If you are in custody in a prison, you can put your name down to see someone from Legal Aid WA. You should do this well before your court date.
Alternatively, on the morning of your court appearance you can ask to speak to a duty lawyer provided by Legal Aid WA. Legal Aid WA duty lawyers are available in most Magistrates Courts and Children's Courts. There is no duty lawyer available in the District or Supreme Courts. You should check with the Magistrates Court before you appear to make sure a duty lawyer will be available. If not, you can appear in court and ask for an adjournment (for your case to be put off) to a day when a duty lawyer will be available.
See Duty Lawyer Service for more information.
What other help is available?
Legal Aid WA operates an InfoLine that provides basic information about the law and referral information. The InfoLine can assist you in understanding how serious your charge is and whether you need to see a private lawyer or the duty lawyer before you appear in court. You can contact Legal Aid WA's InfoLine on 1300 650 579.
The InfoLine can also indicate whether your situation is so serious or complex that you should apply for a grant of legal aid and can assist you by sending you a legal aid application form. Otherwise, you can obtain a legal aid application form from any Legal Aid WA office or from the duty lawyer at court.
Click here for more information about Applying for a grant of legal aid.
Click here for the location of Legal Aid WA offices.
If you are granted legal aid, this means you can receive advice and representation from a lawyer that is paid for by Legal Aid WA.
Can I represent myself?
If your situation is serious or complex or you are appearing in the Children's Court, District or Supreme Court, you should organise to be represented by a lawyer.
If you need more time to find a lawyer to represent you or more time to obtain legal advice, you can appear in court on your own to ask for an adjournment, or you can ask the duty lawyer to appear for you and ask for the adjournment.
If you are appearing in the Magistrates Court and your situation is not serious or complex then representing yourself may be appropriate. For example, where you are facing a traffic offence such as Excess 0.08 blood alcohol content. However, it is still useful to get advice about whether you should plead guilty or not guilty and for you to know the likely penalty for the offence before you go into court to represent yourself.
How do I represent myself?
You go into the court room and tell the orderly (security guard) that you have arrived and are representing yourself. You should sit and wait in the back of the court for your name to be called. When called, stand at the table in front of the magistrate. The magistrate will ask what you want to do. At this stage you may choose to plead guilty, plead not guilty or ask for your case to be adjourned to another date.
What is pleading guilty?
Pleading guilty means that you accept the offence and the police statement of material facts. If you do not agree with the statement of material facts, you should seek legal advice. Click here for more information about Pleading guilty in the Magistrates Court.
What is pleading not guilty?
Pleading not guilty means you deny committing the offence or have a defence to the charge and therefore the court must hear evidence to decide whether you are guilty or not. The hearing of this evidence takes place on a separate date called a trial. A duty lawyer cannot represent you at a trial and therefore your only options are to employ your own lawyer (with or without a grant of legal aid) or represent yourself. Click here for more information about Pleading not guilty in the Magistrates Court.
Can I apply for an adjournment?
When you apply to put your court date off to a later date, it is called applying for an adjournment. When you apply for an adjournment, you do not have to plead guilty or not guilty. Usually the reason you might need an adjournment is to have more time to get legal advice or to find a lawyer. You might also need an adjournment so that you can gather information you will need in court.
You will usually be granted one or two adjournments without needing to provide a reason, however, if you ask for more, you will usually have to provide a good reason. If you have already had a few adjournments and you need another one, you should speak to the duty lawyer before you attend court and they may appear and make the application for you.
If the adjournment is granted, it will usually be for two or three weeks, but it can be longer if there is a good reason. During this time, you should make sure you do everything you can to be ready for your next appearance in court.
What if I have an application to make that requires a hearing?
A duty lawyer cannot represent you when you are making an application which requires a hearing at which evidence will be heard, such as an application for an extraordinary driver’s licence or an application to have your fines suspension removed. Your only options are to employ your own lawyer or represent yourself.
Click here for more information on Extraordinary driver's licence applications.
Click here for more information on Licence suspension order for non-payment of a fine or infringement.
What if I need an interpreter when I go to court?
If you know that you will need an interpreter when you attend court, you should contact the court well before your court appearance date to ask them to arrange an interpreter. This interpreter will then be available on the morning of your court appearance and can assist you during any interviews you may have before court, such as with the duty lawyer.
To arrange an interpreter for the Magistrates Court you need to call the court in which you are appearing and advise them that you need an interpreter. They will need to know your court date and the specific language you speak. Click here for Magistrates Court contact details.
To arrange an interpreter for the Children's Court, you need to complete an Interpreter Request Form. This form is available at the Children's Court or you may download it from the Childrens' Court website under Children's Court Interpreter Services. It must be provided to the court well before your court appearance so that an interpreter can be booked. If you are a family member and you need an interpreter, you may still use this service.
What do I need to do when I am in court?
Here are some tips to help you when you are appearing in court, whether you are representing yourself or represented by a lawyer.
- Be on time: The time you are due in court should be written on your court hearing notice, summons or bail papers. If you are not sure, ring the court and check. If you are late for court or do not come at all, a warrant may be issued. If this happens you could be arrested and put in custody.
- Dress neatly: Take off any sunglasses or hats before you enter the court. You will not be allowed into court in a singlet or without shoes. You should make sure that you are not wearing any clothing that would be considered inappropriate by the court.
- No eating or drinking: Do not take any food or drink into court.
- No mobile phones or electonic devices: Turn off all mobile phones and electronic devices before entering the court.
- Court room behaviour: When entering and leaving the courtroom you should bow towards the magistrate or judge. You should stand up when the magistrate or judge enters and leaves the courtroom. Also stand up when you are being spoken to or when you wish to speak, otherwise remain seated and keep quiet. Address the magistrate or judge as "Sir", "Ma'am" or "Your Honour".
- Young children: Try and make prior arrangements so you do not have to bring your children to court as this will make it easier for you to concentrate on what is happening. If this is not possible, bring someone with you who can mind your children outside the court whilst your case is dealt with. Very young children can be brought into court if they are quiet. If the child is noisy you may be asked to take him or her outside. Some courts may be able to assist with organising child minding. You should contact the court well before your court date to see if this is possible.
How do I contact the court?
If you need to contact the court in which you are appearing click the links below:
Last reviewed: 16/04/2013