March 23, 2022

The case for the defence: how to prepare for your first meeting with a criminal lawyer

You’ve been charged, you have a court date, and now you’re thinking about what happens next. Your head might be swimming with the ‘what-ifs’, wondering what will happen to you, your family, your livelihood and more.

You know you need a criminal lawyer; that much is obvious. But there are several steps you can take so that your lawyer can quickly understand your case to advise you on what you should do and possibly start preparing your case effectively and efficiently. Preparing for your first meeting can save time and money and avoid any surprises that derail your case.

Beyond reasonable doubt

The first step is understanding the legal process. The fundamental rule that underpins criminal prosecutions is the presumption of innocence. The prosecutor, whoever is bringing charges against you, must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the offence in question. This means that any holes in the prosecution case could lead to reasonable doubt at the hearing, and you must be found not guilty. For your lawyer, this means they want to see all the evidence and how it supports the case against you before you launch into your defence.

Gather and organise your documents

Gather all the critical documents and organise them in chronological order from oldest to most recent. These documents include any forms of evidence that relate to your case and help your lawyer understand your case. Other documents are those that you have been issued, including:

Court Attendance Notice

The (Court Attendance Notice) CAN outlines the offences you have been charged with and your court date. For some offences, the CAN might be issued on the spot and looks like a receipt. A complete CAN will be available, and your lawyer will advise how to obtain it. The complete CAN also contains a narrative of the police facts and essential details, including the Officer in Charge and the date and location of your first hearing.

The police facts

This is often part of the CAN, but we’ve separated it here to highlight its importance. The Police facts are all the details describing the offence you have been charged with. The police write it based on what they saw and heard and what the victim or witnesses say they saw and heard. Many defendants dispute the police facts, and the last thing you want is to hear the facts when they are read in court. At this stage, your criminal lawyer needs these facts to understand how the prosecution is building its case.

Bail decision

If you have been arrested then released on police bail, you will have signed a document acknowledging your bail conditions and that you will attend court for your case to be heard. The bail decision also contains the reasons why the police decided to release you and why you must comply with certain decisions. Your criminal lawyer needs this document to help you understand your bail conditions and whether they should make a court application to change or revoke any conditions. This might have a major impact on your life before you go to court.

Police brief of evidence

A brief of evidence is a collection of documents, including statements, CCTV footage, and photographs that the police may use as evidence at the hearing. A brief of evidence is typically served after you attend court and plead not guilty, so you may not have this at your first meeting, but your lawyer will need it as soon as possible to prepare your case. Different rules apply for serious offences, so get legal advice quickly.

Apprehended Violence Order

If your case involves an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO), your criminal lawyer needs this document to understand the conditions of the order and advise what you should do to comply. Information in the AVO includes who it was intended to protect and contact and visitation restrictions.

Final thoughts

We all make mistakes, but when that mistake could cost you your freedom and your reputation, you need the right legal advice. Foye Legal’s criminal law team are dedicated to protecting your legal rights and will do everything to ensure the best possible outcome for you.

Story By

Diana Foye