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11
Oct

Why you shouldn’t fill in a written notice of pleading

Where do I get a Written Notice of Pleading

When charging people with a criminal matter police often hand out an additional yellow slip of paper. That innocent looking pice of paper is a ‘written notice of pleading’ and can cause a lot of problems if you fill it in.

At the time of handing out these slips Police often tell people they can fill it and avoid going to court. We’ve had several people say that the police told them things like, “the court actually prefers it when you don’t attend” or “it’ll be okay, you’ll just get a fine and they’ll post it to you”.

In these cases the police are failing to mention that “just a fine”, means you are being convicted. That means the offence will now appear on your criminal record. It may also mean that travel to certain countries becomes more difficult. Employers may become aware of your criminal record. Depending on the offence you’re charged with, your licence may also be disqualified.

What is a Written Notice Of Pleading?

A written notice of pleading is a form on which you can enter either a plea of guilty or not guilty. The notices are often used as an alternative to attending court in person. If you plead guilty the form also has space for you to write an  explanation about why you committed the offence.

If you get a result you don’t like, you wont be able to annul that result. Your only option will be to lodge an appeal to the District Court within a very strict time frame.

Why shouldn’t I fill one in?

The best way to achieve a good outcome is be at court in person, even when you are pleading guilty. This gives you an opportunity to explain yourself in person and also means the court can see you and that you are taking the matter seriously.

If you want to avoid a conviction it is imperative that you attend court in person. This is because in order to have the matter dismissed without conviction (previously known as a section 10) you need to be physically present to sign the conditional release order (CRO). If you are not present the court cannot consider a CRO as an option.

What if I get convicted?

If you fill in a written notice of pleading and are convicted you are also prevented from lodging an annulment application. Completing one of these forms and posting it to the court is deemed to be the same as attending in person for those purposes.

It also means that you are subject to a 28-day timeframe in which to lodge a District Court Appeal. You then have a further three months in which you can still appeal – but need to seek the leave of the court first. That District Court appeal would essentially be your last shot at avoiding a conviction or disqualification.

Seeking legal advice is always a good place to start before doing a written notice of pleading. A specialist criminal lawyer can assist you with the preparation of subjective materials, make submissions on your behalf, and can negotiate with the police or prosecution on your behalf regarding the charges or facts. If you’d like to speak to one of our lawyers we offer a free 30 minute consultation.

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