Going to court

Information about going to court for a criminal or traffic offence.

  • Alert


    The information in this section deals with cases that will be decided in the Local Court. All charges start in the Local Court but serious charges move to the District or Supreme Court  to be decided. 

    Different processes apply if your case won’t be finalised in the Local Court.

The first court date, is sometimes called a ‘mention.’

The Court will usually want to know if you are pleading guilty or not guilty. When you get to court you should find out what courtroom you are in by:

  • looking for your name on a list on a noticeboard, or
  • asking someone who works at the court.

Once you are in the courtroom, you should wait until your name is called. The magistrate or registrar might work their way through the list of cases, or they might first deal with requests for adjournments or with defendants who have lawyers.

Once your name is called, you will usually be asked to stand next to the bar table. The bar table is where the lawyers and prosecutor sit.

For information about how to find your courtroom, you should watch the video below.

Finding your courtroom

This video is available with the audio​​​ description.​

You should try to get to the court at least half an hour before the time in your Court Attendance Notice (CAN). You may be at the court for a few hours, and sometimes for most of the day. You should make arrangements with your work or childcare if necessary.

The magistrate or registrar may close the courtroom for morning tea (usually around 11:30am) and for lunch (usually from 1:00pm to 2:00pm). You will have to leave the courtroom during these breaks. You can check with the court officer or the registry what time the courtroom will reopen.

On the first court date you will have to tell the registrar or magistrate your plea. 

Before you go to court you should decide whether you are entering a plea of guilty or not guilty.  

Before you decide to plead guilty or not guilty, you should get legal advice.

For more information about deciding to plead guilty or not guilty, see Responding to a charge

If you are not ready to have your case heard at court, you can ask the magistrate to move it to another day. This is called an 'adjournment'.

Examples of why you may not be ready are:

  • you need time to talk to a lawyer to help you decide how to plead
  • you need time to get a lawyer to represent you
  • you have written to the police to ask them to drop the charges or change the police facts sheet (making representations to police) and you are waiting for them to reply
  • you are pleading guilty and you need time to prepare for the sentence
  • you are pleading guilty and you need time to go to an intervention program or counselling. 

Tell the magistrate how long you need and why. For example, if you know that you have an appointment to see a lawyer in two weeks you can tell the magistrate that you need at least two weeks to give you time to see the lawyer.

You can ask the magistrate to refer you to an intervention program before you enter a plea. Your hearing date will be adjourned until after you have completed the program. For more information about intervention programs, see Preparing for court if you are pleading guilty.

If you think you won't be able to make it to court you can:

  • ask for an adjournment
  • ask for the court to move your case to another court (usually only if you are pleading guilty)
  • send a Written Notice of Pleading.

If you are on bail you must attend court on the day written on the CAN. If you do not attend court you could be committing an offence and a warrant may be issued for your arrest.

If you can't go to court you should contact the court registry and explain why. It is a good idea to send something in writing, for example a letter or fax.

If you are sick you should also send a medical certificate that states you are unfit to attend court and why, and ask the court to adjourn your case. You should do this as soon as possible.

Sample: Sample letter requesting an adjournment.

If you need to move your case to another court you should contact the court. You can find the court's details on the CAN. The court may ask that you put your request in writing.

Sample: Sample letter requesting a change of court.

In some cases you may be able to fill out a form called a 'Written Notice of pleading'. In this form you tell the court whether you want to plead guilty or not guilty.

You should get legal advice before using a Written Notice of Pleading. You should not use a Written Notice of Pleading if you are on bail.  

For more information about pleading guilty or not guilty in writing and when you can do it, see Pleading guilty or Pleading not guilty. ​

If you don't go to court, the magistrate can make a decision without you being there. If you missed your court date you should call the court and find out what happened. If you are on bail and you don’t go to court, you may be committing an offence. 

For more information, see If you miss court, in After court.

It is best to speak to Legal Aid before your court date. If there is no available appointment before your court date, you might be able to speak to the duty lawyer at court on the day. If you can’t speak to a duty lawyer at court, you can ask the court for an adjournment to legal advice. Call 1300 888 529 to make an appointment.