Common questions - Criminal trials

Can a duty lawyer represent me at my trial?

No. If a duty lawyer is available at court and not dealing with other urgent matters, he or she may be able to:

  • give you legal advice
  • explain the trial process, or
  • present a plea in mitigation for you if you are found guilty.

Can someone else speak for me at my trial?

Generally no, unless they are a lawyer.

In special circumstances, the magistrate may allow someone else to speak on your behalf as a 'friend of the court'. This is very rare, and that person would need special permission from the magistrate to be able to do so.

Can I change my trial date?

Yes, but it is not easy. You must come to court before the trial date and ask the magistrate to change the date. You will need a good reason and even then, it is up to the magistrate. You must be ready to go ahead if your request is refused.

What if I am sick on the day of my trial?

  • If you are sick on your trial day, you will need a medical certificate which says that you are too unwell to attend court.
  • Phone the court on the trial morning to let them know you won’t be attending and email or fax through your medical certificate as soon as possible.
  • If you do not attend, a bench warrant may be issued for your arrest. This can happen even if you have a medical certificate.

Can I change my plea to guilty?

Yes. If you are going to change your plea, do so as soon as possible so costs are not awarded against you.

  • Write to the prosecutor and tell them. 
  • You must also file a Form 6 to early list the matter and tell the court you want to change your plea.
  • A duty lawyer may be able to help with your plea in mitigation.
Useful documents

Court forms can also be downloaded in Word document format from the Magistrates Court of WA website.

How do I show respect to the court?

  • Dress neatly.
  • Turn off your mobile phone.
  • Stand up when you are spoken to and when you want to speak.

What is contempt of court?

If you interrupt, misbehave, swear or otherwise insult the magistrate, or fail to comply with a lawful direction of the court, the magistrate may find you to be in contempt of court. Contempt of court is an offence for which you can be fined or imprisoned.

If you apologise to the court for your behaviour, the court may amend or cancel the order imposing the punishment for the contempt.

Useful documents

What is perjury?

It is an offence in any court, for a person to knowingly give false testimony. This is called committing perjury.

A person convicted of committing perjury can be imprisoned.


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.