If you have been charged with a criminal offence, you may be considering whether to engage a lawyer to represent you, particularly if you intend to plead guilty. There are many benefits that can come from engaging the services of an experienced lawyer, and it is important that you understand these benefits before making any decisions.
One of the most important reasons why you should consider instructing a lawyer is because they can provide valuable representation which could be the difference between a conviction being recorded or not. At a sentence hearing it is vital that the court hears about your good character and understands the reasons for the behaviour that lead to your offence. A lawyer will be able to speak on your behalf at this hearing and ensure that the Judge is aware of your personal circumstances.
Another benefit of having a solicitor represent you is because they can negotiate on your behalf prior to you entering a plea of guilty to reach an agreement between parties or even possibly reduce charges against you. In addition, sometimes there are technical legal arguments or defences which can be argued or cause you to consider you plea.
Having a lawyer will ensure that you understand what you are pleading guilty to and the likely sentencing outcomes for the charges.
In 2017 in the case of Bridges v Police  SASC 35, a man’s sentence of 4 years imprisonment was overturned on appeal after he pleaded guilty without legal representation. This was in circumstances where the defendant was not aware that he could dispute the facts that had been put to the Court by prosecution and the Court did not consider his personal circumstances.
The Supreme Court returned the matter to the Magistrates Court for re-sentencing (with a different Magistrate) as it was held that the original Sentencing Magistrate was in error by not considering the defendants personal circumstances or explaining to him that he could dispute the prosecutions version of facts. The Magistrate also fell into error by not offering the defendant to make submissions to try to avoid a prison term.
This case highlights the importance of obtaining legal advice and representation in your criminal and traffic matters and even more so where there is a possibility of imprisonment. There is no doubt that going to Court may be daunting but self-representation can be risky! If Mr Bridges had legal advice in the first place all the appropriate submission would have been put to the Court and ideally Mr Bridges may have not spent time in custody. It is advisable to obtain legal advice as early as possible. The earlier you seek advice, the better prepared we can be to assist you with your matter.
To summarise, the takeaways are:
Instructing a lawyer can assist in sentencing by:
Negotiating with prosecution
Making sure the Court are aware of all your circumstances
A solicitor can also assist with any submissions on legal/ technical arguments
A solicitor will ensure that you understand the charges against you and the possible sentencing outcomes
Instructing a lawyer early will help ensure you do not miss sentencing reductions for early guilty pleas as well as ensuring that you are ready for Court as early as possible.
If you have been charged with a Criminal or Traffic Offence, we recommend getting legal advice even if you intend on pleading guilty. KD & Co Lawyers can assist you. Contact Us on (08) 7084 3060 or by email at email@example.com to organise a free first meeting.