If you have been charged with a criminal offence or are due to appear at Downing Centre Local Court for a penalty notice or other traffic-related matter, it is important that you attend court on your nominated court date. Failing to turn up for court at the scheduled time could potentially lead to serious penalties, and the matter could be decided in your absence.
If you are going to be away on your planned court date or can’t attend for some other reason, in some cases you may be able to make your plea in writing by filling out a written notice of pleading. Provided that the court receives this notice in time, the magistrate will take it into consideration when deciding your sentence, or whether the matter will proceed to a defended hearing.
Where can I find a Written Notice of Pleading form?
The form for a written notice of pleading can be obtained from the registrar’s office at Downing Centre Local Court or it can be downloaded from the Local Court website. Once you have your form, make sure you fill it out carefully and read all the instructions. If you are at the court registry, the court staff will be able to assist you in completing the form, although they can’t give you legal advice or help you decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty.
You should make sure you include any information that is relevant to your case on the written notice of pleading, including medical records, character references, information about your personal and financial circumstances, and anything else that might be considered relevant and could help the magistrate decide the outcome of your case.
You will need to lodge your written notice of pleading at least seven days before your scheduled court appearance. If you lodge it later than that, it is possible that it will not reach the court by the correct date and the matter will be decided in your absence without taking into consideration the information on the form. If you are currently on bail and the conditions of your bail specify that you attend court, you won’t be eligible to use a written notice of pleading.
Are there any disadvantages to filing a written notice of pleading?
Filing a written notice of pleading means that you won’t be present at the time of your court date to defend yourself or present your side of the story. This can potentially mean that you may get a less positive outcome than if you were there to defend yourself.
Even if you intend to plead guilty it can be helpful to be present at your hearing so that you can answer any questions the magistrate might have. In some cases you may also be able to explain any mitigating circumstances or ask for a lesser penalty, which won’t be possible if you file a written notice of pleading. When you lodge a written notice of pleading, all the court has is the information in the form. If there are any gaps in the information you have provided, you won’t be there to clarify things for the magistrate.
If you are going to be away and have no other option, a written notice of pleading is better than not turning up to your court date, but wherever possible it is generally best to be physically present in court, even if you do intend to plead guilty.