Pleading Not Guilty
When a defendant is charged with an offence in NSW, they get what is known as a “Police Facts Sheet”. This outlines what occurred in the incident leading to the charges.
It is absolutely crucial to get legal advice from the outset of being charged by police. This is so that the defendant has proper information about the next steps.
A defence solicitor will read out the “Facts Sheet” to the defendant. The defendant may disagree with it in part or entirely, including the charge(s) which they are facing.
Disputing the criminal charges
The first thing the solicitor should do is remind the defendant of the early plea discount. This is where a defendant has the right to receive a 25% discount on an overall sentence if they plead guilty to the charges.
If a defendant reads the Police Facts and strongly disagrees with them, a defence solicitor may advise them to enter a plea of “not guilty”.
After entering a plea of “not guilty” at court, a defence solicitor will then request the service of the “brief of evidence”. This is essentially a compact bundle of all the evidence the police seek to rely upon in relation to a defendant’s charge(s).
Discussing the police evidence
It takes approximately six weeks for the brief of evidence to arrive. Once that happens, a defendant’s legal representative will then organise a time to discuss all aspects of the evidence contained in the police brief to consider how to defend the matter in a hearing. This is an important step in the journey of pleading not guilty. It gives both the defendant and their solicitor a chance to familiarise themselves with:
- the evidence the police have against them;
- the possible deficiencies in the evidence the police do not have;
- how that compares with a defendant’s individual instructions about what they say happened on the date or dates of the incident; and
- the pros and cons of running a matter to a defended Hearing.
Still wanting to plead guilty?
After discussions with a solicitor, a defendant may still decide to proceed with pleading not guilty. In this case they may request the solicitor list the matter for a ‘defended hearing’.
By this stage, a defendant would have received thorough legal advice from their solicitor. Consequently, they can consider all the options and possible legal outcomes and the pros and cons of moving forward.
- the likely outcome a defended hearing;
- how the court may perceive the police evidence
- the court’s response to hearing evidence from the defendant first hand including challenging the evidence of the prosecution; and
- possible legal defences available to the charge(s).
Once a defendant has re-confirmed a plea of not guilty, the solicitor will attend court with the defendant or on their behalf and then obtain a date for the hearing.
What to do if you are facing criminal charges and want to plead not guilty
If you are facing charges, you should contact a lawyer immediately. Engaging a lawyer from the outset ensures that you have the best possibility to getting a fair and just sentence for the charge.