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What to do when you’re charged with a crime
Nobody prays to be charged with a criminal offence, but you’d be mistaken to think it can never happen to you.
Yes, you may have a clear criminal history and be upright in all things that concern the law, but all it takes to drag your name in the mud is a slight negligence on your part on the part of someone working for you.
A simple case study illustrating why you need to know more about criminal charges
Imagine that you run a restaurant and have some staff working for you. Then, on one unfortunate day, an employee mops a slippery floor but forgets to put up a “Wet Floor” sign somewhere around the area. Then a customer comes along to make an order, only for him to slip and hit his head; then, he dies.
A few days later, while you’re sitting in your office, thinking about the next big deal you want to pull off, someone walks into your office and places a criminal offence charge letter in front of you.
Unfortunately, because you don’t know too much about criminal offences, you lashed out at the person – not knowing he’s a lawyer of the law – and even went as far as threatening him out of anger.
In short, you just made matters worse!
The restaurant owner could have handled matters differently had it been he found this post sooner.
Luckily for you, you have what he didn’t have! So please read it until the end.
What to do when you’re charged with a crime
As much as you’re doing your best to steer clear of crime, it’s also important that you equip yourself with the knowledge of what to do in the unfortunate event that you find yourself battling with a criminal charge.
Ok, you’ve been charged. What happens next?
First, understand what it means to be charged:
A charge is a formal allegation of an offence, even if guilt isn’t proven.
Generally speaking, there are two types of offences – which are summary offences and indictable offences.
Summary offences refer to those minor offences such as traffic infringement, misconduct, etc. In contrast, indictable offences refer to those serious offences such as rape, abuse, murder, assault, etc.
It is the type of offence for which a person is being charged that will determine the method for which the charge will be issued.
Usually, there are three methods in which a charge can be issued. They include:
1.) A Notice to Appear in Court
A criminal charge can be issued immediately by the police asking you to appear in a Magistrates court if the offence you’ve committed is a minor one, say traffic infringement.
2.) Complaint and summons
As a charge sworn under oath by a justice of the peace, a complaint and summons is served without the need for the defendant to go to a police station. Depending on the immediacy, those met with a complaint and summons charge are expected to appear in Court in the subsequent weeks.
This is the commonest method used to issue a charge. And it involves the accused being taken to a watch-house, where formal charges are pressed. Depending on the magnitude of the offence being reported and the cooperation of the accused, an arrest can sometimes involve the use of force.
It is important to note that while a minor offence may simply warrant a notice to appear in Court, it’s crucial that you appear in Court on the date stated on the notice to appear. Otherwise, you may risk being liable for extra charges.
What should you do after the charge has been served?
Having explained to you what the different types of offences and charge methods are, the next thing is for you to find out what your offences and charges are.
You can find this out by reading the charge sheet sent to you.
In addition to this sheet, you’ll need to read the police prosecution file, which is a comprehensive document that features two sections.
The first section is the QP9 document, wherein you’ll find the following:
- A general description of the alleged offence.
- The legislation you’re being charged under.
- An overview of your criminal history to tell whether you’ve had similar criminal charges in the past.
The second section is the police brief, wherein you’ll find the following:
- Eye-witness accounts
- An outline of witness statements
- And any extra testaments derived from the scene of the event.
Going through your QP9 with a professional criminal lawyer, like the one at jamesonlaw.com.au, is crucial to your chances of defending yourself because these solicitors have a history of handling similar matters, and they know what points to look for to raise an argument for you in Court.
What happens next?
Now you have to choose whether to plead guilty or not guilty.
If you plead guilty, it means you accept the offences labeled against you, as well as the charges that follow.
However, if you plead not guilty, it means you don’t accept any wrongdoing, at which point the case will be listed for trial.
If you’re dealing with an indictable case, the court hearing may be sent to a higher court – higher than a Magistrates court – say a District or a Supreme Court.