Going to Court

Coronavirus and Court: Covid-19 FAQ

By March 23, 2020 No Comments
Coronavirus court

FAQ:

I have a notice to appear; do I need to attend? What will happen to my loved one who is supposed to be sentenced next week? All of your questions about Court in these unprecedented times will be answered. Contact us today for free advice about your situation.

The government has sent a clear message to all Australians that we should stay home and avoid unnecessary travel and events. It might seem very unclear about what that means for persons facing criminal charges; both those on bail and those in custody.

Thankfully, the Queensland Courts have released guidelines for each Court jurisdiction, clarifying how matters will be dealt with. In general, all Magistrates Courts will be seeking to adjourn and delay matters unless they are urgent. We’ve explored common issues and questions in this article.

Please note that this article offers a general overview of the current practices which we will endeavour to keep up to date as this situation unfolds. It should not be relied on as legal advice. You should call our office or seek other legal advice for specific advice about your matter.

I have been issued with a notice to appear in Court for a new charge – do I need to attend?

According to the current Magistrates Court Practice Direction as at 14 April 2020, you do not need to attend for a Notice to Appear. By default, the Court will adjourn the matter without bail to a future date.

My matter is already before the Court – do I need to attend?

If you already have a lawyer, you should of course speak to them. In most cases, lawyers will be managing their matters to work out what can and can’t go ahead and whether their clients need to appear. In most cases, however, defendants who have lawyers don’t need to attend at mentions or trials.

 

If you are currently self-represented (in other words, you don’t currently have a lawyer), you can contact the relevant Court to request an adjournment without attending. You can tell the Court what you’re asking for in an email or you can indicate your phone number and ask for permission to appear by telephone. A list of phone numbers and email contacts for all Court in Queensland can be found here.

What will happen to persons in custody?

Both in the Magistrates Court and the District Court, the Courts are committed to dealing with defendants in custody as a matter of priority. This applies to bail applications and sentences, which should not result in any delays. However, jury trials are currently suspended. Juries are usually used in all trials before the District and Supreme Courts, but the Magistrates Court is also adjourning all trials unless otherwise advised.

For prisoners awaiting trial in the District or Supreme Courts, they can talk to their lawyers about applying for a judge-only trial (no jury). For those prisoners who cannot have their trial reached due to the situation, an application for bail may be made. In this situation, it is always ideal to be represented by a criminal lawyer.

For family and loved ones of those in custody, the Courts generally won’t allow their presence in the Courtrooms. We anticipate that the Courts might allow parents or guardians to be present in the Childrens Court, however.

My licence is currently suspended awaiting Court to be finished – what do I do?

The Magistrates Court, who deal with almost all traffic matters, have made it clear that urgent traffic matters will be dealt with upon request. Some people, such as those with high-range or subsequent drink driving offences, will receive an indefinite suspension of their licence until their matter is finalised in Court. If you are in this situation and are pleading guilty, the Court will deal with your sentence as early as possible so that your disqualification can commence.

If you are disputing a traffic offence and your licence is suspended, you might consider making a ‘79E application’ for a temporary lifting of the suspension. This process is similar to a work licence application.

Work licence applications and disqualifications can be complicated. If you are considering pleading guilty or making a 79E application, it is appropriate to seek advice from a criminal or traffic lawyer.

I don’t know if I can comply with my bail conditions for 3 months or more – what do I do?

It is common for people charged with serious offences to be placed on strict bail conditions such as curfews and residential requirements. In some situations, it might be possible to persuade the Court to reduce or remove such conditions. Again, this is best done through a criminal lawyer who is familiar with bail laws in Queensland.

What if I’m sick and can’t go to Court or sign in for my bail?

In either situation, you should obtain a medical certificate from a doctor confirming that you are unable to attend. You should email to the Court or police station and provide them with a copy of your medical certificate.

If you can’t get a medical certificate, you should still contact the Court or police station to advise them about your situation. As we are in early stages of this situation, it is difficult to predict when the Courts will issue warrants and when police will charge persons on bail for failing to sign in as directed.

If you are unsure about what to do, you should contact a criminal lawyer for advice.

I want to plead guilty but don’t want to attend Court – is this possible?

For some matters, yes. For a long time, Queensland Courts have accepted guilty pleas online for minor offences. The Courts can accept guilty pleas without a defendant’s presence on any offences which are not indictable or won’t involve a potential licence disqualification. This means that charges like possession of drugs and unlicenced driving cannot be dealt with in your absence. Offences which are commonly dealt with by an online guilty plea indication are:

  • Commit public nuisance
  • Driving unregistered or uninsured
  • Contravene direction or requirement of police
  • Unauthorised dealing with shop goods

Even if you accept the charge against you, it is always recommended to seek legal advice before confirming a plea of guilty. In some instances, there may be defences to the charge that you are not aware of.

You can submit a request to be sentenced without attending on the Queensland Government’s website here.

Our services during the Covid-19 pandemic

As a firm that practices exclusively in criminal law, we understand the significant impact that this situation will have on individuals facing charges; especially those in custody. Hans Legal is committed to ensuring access to justice during these uncertain times.

If you have any questions about concerning your court matter or a loved one’s, please get in touch with us today. If you call or email us, we will always be happy to give advice at no cost.

If you need representation anywhere in Queensland, we can assist via Legal Aid funding where eligible or otherwise offer an affordable fixed-fee quote for peace of mind.  We are a modern, progressive firm and have systems in place to reduce the need for face-to-face interaction between clients, lawyers and the Courts.

To assist with ease of contact, you can also contact our lawyers directly:

Dylan Hans (principal lawyer):

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 0431 261 581

 

Kelsea Read (lawyer):

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 0421 763 611

Other resources and contacts