Pleading not guilty in the Magistrates Court

Pleading not guilty usually means that you don’t agree with the charge. It might also mean that you can’t remember what happened, or you want to make the prosecution prove their case against you.

It is really important to get legal advice before you plead not guilty, or before your charge goes to trial. You need to understand how serious your charge is, what the police will need to prove, whether you have a defence, and what might happen if you are found guilty.

Find out:

  • what happens in the Magistrates Court when you plead not guilty
  • how to prepare for your trial, and
  • what happens at a trial.

What happens in the Magistrates Court when I plead not guilty?

When you plead not guilty your matter is listed for trial. This can be months ahead. At the trial, the magistrate will hear from all witnesses and decide if you are guilty or not guilty.

Can I change my plea to 'guilty'?

You can change your plea to guilty any time before the trial. If you decide to change your plea let the prosecution and court know as soon as possible. This is so that witnesses won’t show up to court for the trial. This will help you avoid being asked to pay the costs of the trial.

How do I prepare for my trial?

If you are representing yourself at trial you need to:

  • Ask for details of the case against you.
  • Write down your version of what happened.
  • Make sure all your witnesses come to court.
  • Make a list of questions for every witness.
  • Make a list of things to tell the magistrate.
  • Organise all of your evidence.

Legal Aid WA has produced a self-help guide for people representing themselves in a Magistrates Court criminal trial. There is also a information kit that can be downloaded from the guide.

What happens at the trial date?

Make sure you turn up to court on time. Your trial will run in the following order:

  • Prosecutor will make an opening address if they want to.
  • You can then make an opening address but you don’t have to.
  • The prosecution will call their witnesses to give evidence one by one.
  • You will be given the chance to cross examine each of the prosecution witnesses.
  • You will then give evidence if you want to. You don’t have to give evidence.
  • You will call all of your witnesses to give evidence one by one.
  • Prosecutor can cross examine you and your witnesses.
  • Prosecutor will make a closing address.
  • You will make a closing address.
  • The magistrate will decide if you are guilty or not guilty.

What if I am found not guilty?

The charge will be dismissed and you are free to go.

What if I am found guilty?

The magistrate will decide what your sentence will be.




Reviewed: 11 April 2018

Representing yourself?

A guide to defending yourself against criminal charges in the Magistrates Court


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.