Guilty but not guilty of what you've been charged with? Here's what to do!
If you have been charged with an offence and you know you are guilty but some details are wrong or misconstrued, it’s important that you seek legal advice before accepting a guilty plea. Why? Because it may see you receive a harsher penalty as a result and, this can be detrimental to your future. You should know exactly what you’ve been charged with and the evidence surrounding it. In this post, you’ll find information on pleading not guilty to traffic offences and the process involved.
Who can plead not guilty to a traffic offence?
Anyone can plead not guilty to a traffic offence however, there are very limited circumstances where a not guilty plea will be considered, especially for offences such as drink driving or driving under the influence of drugs. If you believe you are not responsible for the offence or you do not agree with the facts that have been alleged against you, you should not plead guilty. Too often, people can’t be bothered fighting a guilty charge or don’t know how to and just cop whatever penalty the Magistrate gives them. It is never a good idea to do this as you may receive a harsher penalty than you deserve.
Who shouldn't plead not guilty to a traffic offence?
If you have been charged with a traffic offence and there is sufficient evidence against you, and you are in fact guilty of the charge, attempting to plead not guilty can end badly for you. Queensland courts take a tough stance on this and will likely impose a tougher penalty on you for wasting their time. If you are guilty and the information in the police brief is correct, it is in your best interest to plead guilty. This can save you time too.
How does it work if you want to plead not guilty?
If you haven’t already sought legal advice and you appear in court, your matter will likely be adjourned for around 4 to 6 weeks. During this time, you can seek legal advice (which is strongly advisable) and the police will spend this time coming up with a brief of evidence against you.
What is a brief of evidence?
A brief of evidence is the evidence the police have on you surrounding your offence. This will be used against you to prove your guilt when your matter is heard in court. Police can only use the information contained in the brief and cannot call in additional evidence in most instances.
The court registrar will set a date that the police need to serve you with the brief of evidence although, they don’t always meet this deadline. The registrar will normally give them additional time to serve you if they have an adequate reason for not serving you in the stipulated timeframe.
Your legal costs may be able to be covered by the police if they fail to serve you the brief in time. If this has happened to you, be sure to speak to your legal representative about where you stand concerning this.
Requesting your hearing date
The next time you appear in court, your legal representative will be requesting a hearing date from the registrar. At this time, you’ll be asked to fill out a court listing advice. You may be asked what you are disputing.
If a person or business relevant to your case can provide evidence to support your case, they may be subpoenaed. If this is the case, your lawyer will request another court date so they can obtain this information and investigate it before your matter is heard.
The day of your hearing
When the day of your hearing comes, the prosecution will present evidence against you to the court. Once all the evidence is presented, the Magistrate will determine whether you are found guilty or not guilty. To be found guilty, the police must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. If there is any doubt, the charge must be dismissed.
During this phase of the court hearing, the prosecution will likely call in witnesses if any, to prove that you are guilty of your charge. The prosecution will usually ask the witnesses questions and the defence (your legal team) may cross-examine them. After this, the prosecution will typically go back to the witness and ask any additional questions they feel are relevant to the case. After all the witnesses have been questioned, submissions will be made by the prosecution before closing the case.
If the prosecution has no witnesses or insufficient evidence against you, the defence can make submissions to the Magistrate as to why you cannot be lawfully convicted given the lack of evidence against you.
The defence case
If you are required to give evidence, this will normally be done before any defence witnesses. If you have defence witnesses, they will be questioned by your lawyer and then cross-examined by the prosecutor.
The Magistrate will come to a verdict based on the evidence from both parties involved. You will either be found guilty or not guilty of the alleged offence.
What happens if I am found not guilty?
If you are found not guilty by the Magistrate, the charges against you will be dropped, and no conviction will be recorded against you. You may be able to claim your legal expenses.
What happens if I am found guilty?
If you have been found guilty of the offence alleged against you, you will be formally charged with the offence, and a penalty will be imposed on you. The penalty you receive will depend on the offence you have committed and whether you have previously been charged with similar offences in the past.
Seek legal advice
If you believe you are not guilty of a traffic-related offence, it’s important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. An experienced traffic lawyer can advise you on whether you have a strong case or not and what steps you should be taking given the specifics of your charge. At Drink Driver Lawyer, we specialise in this area of the law and we offer obligation-free consultations. Reach out or head to our website for more information.