If you have never experienced criminal proceedings before, it can be a daunting experience. This post outlines what a criminal charge is, the ways police can charge you, and what to do after criminal charges have been laid.
What is a criminal charge?
Under Australian law, this simply means the police believe that you have committed a criminal offence while breaking the law. At this time police might wish to interview you. As this can seriously affect the case, it is best to seek legal advice before saying anything at all to the police.
The right to silence literally means the right to remain silent. Even if asked a direct question, you do not have to answer it, unless you want to.
Only under special circumstances does the right to silence not apply. For example, being asked for your name and address, as generally police do have the power to demand identification.
Ways the police can charge you
There are three ways criminal charges can be issued. Each method requires court attendance to start proceedings.
- Arrest. A trip to the police station (in the back of a paddy wagon if necessary) to formally issue charges.
- Complaint and summons. A charge in a summons document, which results from a sworn affidavit witnessed by a justice of the peace and is delivered to you by hand.
- Notice requesting you to appear. Not formally worded, like a summons, and does not require a justice of the peace to witness it, so police can issue it straight away, similar to a parking ticket.
What to do if criminal charges are laid
- Get legal advice from a criminal lawyer.
- Request your charge sheet (outlines the criminal offence the police believe occurred).
- Get a copy of the file the police are using in the prosecution of your case (this will contain what they alleged happened and supporting evidence).
Criminal law in Australia is complex and can vary greatly from state to state. To best tackle any interactions with the police in this area of law, firstly speak with a lawyer who specialises in criminal law and has experience with cases similar to yours. This ensures that you can act with the best possible advice in mind.
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