Not Guilty Pleas
Not guilty pleas are made if you disagree with the crime that you have been charged of or where you agree that you committed the offence but that you had a valid reason and defence.
We believe there is no greater injustice than an innocent person being found guilty of a crime that they didn’t commit. This is why we fight vigorously for our clients who are victims of fallacious and false allegations. We do everything in our power to restore their reputations and return their lives to the way they were before being charged by the police.
“It is far better that 10 guilty men go free than one innocent man is convicted.”
Written by the great jurist William Blackstone in his famous 1760s legal texts, this sentiment is shared by the criminal lawyers at Australian Criminal Law Group.
Our criminal lawyers understand that being charged with a criminal offence is incredibly stressful. This can place intense pressure on you and your family. We are ready to defend you and ensure you always informed prepared and ready for court.
Below is general information about the process of making not guilty pleas. If you need representation or criminal law advice, make a website enquiry here or call our free 24/7 criminal law hotline on (02) 8815 8167. Australian Criminal Law Group are based in Sydney, Parramatta and Blacktown and represent clients from across the broader Sydney area.
What happens if I plead not guilty to a criminal offence that is going to finish in the Local Court?
If you plead not guilty the Magistrate will order the prosecution (for most offences) to serve a copy of the brief of evidence on you. This includes all witness statements and proposed documentary exhibits.
The Magistrate will adjourn the case to allow the evidence to be served on you. You and your criminal lawyer will then consider the evidence. A case may be adjourned several times while the police put together a brief of evidence and serve it on you.
Once the brief of evidence is complete a date for the matter to be finalised at a defended hearing is set by the Magistrate.
On the day of the hearing the prosecution will call their witnesses first. You and your criminal lawyer will call your witnesses second. You have a right to silence and cannot be compelled to give evidence. The prosecutor and criminal lawyer will examine, and cross-examine any witnesses called.
The golden rule in our system of criminal justice is that the prosecution has to prove the case against you beyond a reasonable doubt. They do not have to prove every fact beyond a reasonable doubt.
Following the evidence being called and submissions by the prosecutor and your criminal lawyer, the magistrate will decide whether you are guilty or not guilty.
What happens at court if I plead not guilty to an offence being dealt with in the District or Supreme Court?
Where an offence is being dealt with in the District or Supreme Court you will be entitled to see the brief of evidence against you, before being asked whether you plead guilty or not guilty. A Magistrate will order the police serve on a copy of the brief of evidence on you and your criminal lawyer. The Brief of Evidence includes witness statements and proposed documentary exhibits. The Magistrate will also order a mandatory negotiation with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions called a case conference.
If you plead not guilty following this process you will be committed to the District or Supreme Court for trial. Most trials in NSW are before a jury but there are some circumstances where it can be heard before a judge sitting alone.
A trial by Judge and jury will generally involve the following events and procedures in the following order:
- Legal argument. This is where your criminal lawyer and the Crown Prosecutor argue about what evidence the jury should hear at your trial. The judge will ultimately decide what evidence is admitted into evidence.
- Empanelling of the jury (the process of selecting the jury members with each of the defence and prosecution having three challenges);
- Opening statement by the Crown Prosecutor;
- Calling of witnesses by the Crown Prosecutor and cross-examination (questioning of the witness) by your criminal lawyer;
- Opening statement by your criminal lawyer;
- Calling of witnesses by your criminal lawyer and cross examination by the Crown Prosecutor;
- Final submissions by the Crown Prosecutor and your criminal lawyer;
- Summary of the whole law and evidence by the judge to the jury;
- The Jury deliberate until they reach a verdict of whether you are guilty, not guilty or unable to reach a verdict. In the first instance, verdicts are required to be unanimous.
If you are found not guilty, you are acquitted and the case ends.