Pleading guilty in the Magistrates Court

Pleading guilty means that you accept that you committed the offence. It also means you agree with what the police say in their summary (called the statement of material facts). Following a plea of guilty you will be sentenced and, in most cases, the offence will go on your criminal record.

It is really important to get legal advice before you plead guilty. Some offences have minimum penalties that must be imposed, which can include going to prison. It is very difficult to change a guilty plea later on.

Find out:

  • Whether you should represent yourself when you plead guilty
  • What happens when you plead guilty
  • What you should tell the court when you plead guilty
  • The different sentences you might get

Can I represent myself when I plead guilty?

Yes. However, if your charge is serious or if you are not sure what to do, it is better to talk to a lawyer first. If you are in the Magistrates Court, you can see the duty lawyer if there is one in court. If you are in the District Court or Supreme Court, you should always get legal advice.

What happens when I plead guilty?

  • When it is your turn to appear in court your name will be called.
  • You will be asked what you want to do.
  • If you say you want to plead guilty the charge will be read out.
  • You will then be asked what your plea is.
  • If you say you are guilty the prosecutor will read out the statement of material facts. They might say what they think your sentence should be.
  • You or your lawyer will then do a plea in mitigation.
  • You will be sentenced. The court might put off the final sentencing until another day. You might be given the chance to go to counselling or mediation. The court can also ask for a pre-sentence report to be prepared about you before sentencing.

What should I tell the court when I plead guilty? What is a plea in mitigation?

A plea in mitigation is your chance for you or your lawyer to tell the court about you. The sort of information the court wants to hear from you includes:

  • Why you committed the offence. Are drugs, alcohol or mental health a problem for you? Be careful not to blame others.
  • Whether you are sorry. Did you apologise or try to help the victim? Did you co-operate with the police?
  • Your personal circumstances, including family and employment.
  • If any other offences are on your criminal record.
  • What you have done to make sure you don’t get into trouble again.
  • What your sentence could be. Are you able to do community work? Why shouldn’t you be sent to jail if it is serious?

As part of your plea in mitigation it may assist you to provide the court with character references to show the court how you are thought of in the community.

What sentence can I get when I plead guilty?

There are a range of possible outcomes when you are convicted of a criminal offence.  The sentence or penalty you get depends on the offence, your record and your personal situation. 

Some common sentences are:

  • a fine
  • a community based order with or without community work
  • an intensive supervision order with or without community work
  • a suspended term of imprisonment
  • imprisonment.

The court may also make other orders when you are sentenced. For example, granting you a spent conviction or ordering you to pay court costs.


Reviewed: 11 April 2018


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.