When you or someone you know is charged with a criminal offence, there can be a lot of stress and uncertainty leading up to the first court date. While criminal proceedings are very serious, they take some time. A case is unlikely to be resolved in one appearance, and most of the time very little will happen at a first appearance.
Your first court date is not a trial. A trial must be scheduled, typically several months or more in the future. While it is usually possible to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty on your first appearance, you do not have to do so. Before entering a plea, you should speak with a lawyer and obtain advice. You are also entitled to receive and review a copy of the evidence against you, known as disclosure. You may also want to find out from the prosecution what sentence they would be seeking if you were to plead guilty.
All of these, and other pre-trial matters, can take time. You can ask the Court for more time before entering your plea. Cases are typically put over several weeks at a time, and in some cases it can take months before a plea is entered. However, the Court’s patience is not unlimited and eventually you must enter a plea. Your early court appearances should be used wisely, and you should be making real progress on whatever it was you told the Court you would be doing.
While many people represent themselves in court, particularly at early appearances, it is a good idea to obtain legal counsel. An experienced lawyer can represent and guide you throughout the criminal process. They can make court appearances on your behalf and tell you when your presence is not required. They can inform you of all the options available, and help navigate the criminal process.
Speaking with the lawyers at Royal and Company before your first appearance will allow you the freedom not to miss work if you are not required to be present and will ensure that the appropriate steps are taken to move your matter forward. If you have an upcoming court appearance, contact us today.