Criminal law in Western Australia is governed by the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913. If you have been charged with a criminal offence, these are a few things you need to know:
1) Get legal advice
It is important that you get legal advice regarding the seriousness of the charge and the likely penalty you will receive if you are convicted of it. It is important to get legal advice in all instances where you face criminal convictions but more particularly when you are appearing before a court.
2) Court appearances
You will receive paperwork that will inform you if you need to appear in court. In most cases the paperwork will say you have to attend court. However, in some cases you may not have to attend.
· Court hearing notice – A court hearing notice is used to let you know about a court date for a less serious charge or charges. It gives you the option to attend court or not. If you choose not to attend court you should respond to the court hearing notice by endorsing it with a plea of guilty or not guilty and by returning it to the court. If you endorse a plea of guilty you will not have an opportunity to apply for a spent conviction order in relation to the offence you are charged with. This is something worth seeking legal advice about.
· Summons – A summons is used for more serious charges. A summons requires you to attend court on a set date. If you do not attend, the court may:
o adjourn the charge to a new date and either:
o issue a summons to require you to attend court on that date, or
o issue a warrant for your arrest to ensure you attend court. Once arrested, you will be kept in police custody and brought before a court as soon as possible. It is then up to the court whether you remain in custody or are released.
It is important to note that it is not an option for the court to deal with the charge in your absence if you have been advised of your court date by way of a summons.
3) Criminal records and spent convictions
Criminal record refers to the formal record of offences that you have been convicted of in a court. This means that only offences that you have pleaded guilty to or been found guilty of after trial. Such offences will show up in your criminal record. This includes offences that you have been convicted of in your absence. However, if you have been found not guilty of an offence, it will not show up in your record.
You can apply for a conviction to spent at the time a sentence is passed. Usually courts will only award a spent conviction once to an offender. If you are refused a spent conviction at the time of sentencing (or do not apply for your conviction to be spent) you must wait 10 years before becoming eligible for your conviction to be declared spent. You would also need to have not been convicted of any further offences within the intervening 10 year period.
A ‘spent’ conviction is a conviction that does not need to be disclosed in certain circumstances, such as when applying for some kinds of employment. As a result, a spent conviction will not appear in a National Police Certificate as it is not classed a ‘disclosable’ offence. If you make an application for a National Police Certificate it automatically includes an application for any eligible offences to be declared spent.
This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.