What to expect at your sentencing hearing

What to expect at your sentencing hearing

The sentencing hearing is the day that the magistrate decides what penalty to impose for your matter.

We understand that it’s not an easy day for our clients. You will probably have spent weeks preparing and worrying about what the outcome will be. Add the fact that a courtroom is an unfamiliar environment, and it’s no wonder you’re feeling nervous!

We find that knowing what to expect on the day can relieve some of that worry. Below, are the answers to the most common questions we get asked.

But remember, our aim is to make this process as easy as possible for you. If you have a question or concern about your upcoming court date, feel free to give us a call. We’re always happy to take the time to put your mind at ease.

What happens at the sentencing hearing?

  1. Your lawyer will wait at the ‘bar table’ (this is a table in front of the magistrate where the lawyers sit). You will usually sit in the public seating area at the back of the courtroom.
  2. When it’s your turn, your lawyer will tell the magistrate your surname. They will also give the magistrate a copy of your traffic and criminal record. They will ask you to stand up so the magistrate knows who you are. You can sit down again as soon as the magistrate acknowledges you. (Don’t worry, we will tell you when to sit and stand).
  3. The police prosecutor will give the magistrate a copy of the facts sheet (i.e. the police’s story about what you did. We will have reviewed this with you beforehand to make sure it’s correct.) They will also give the magistrate a copy of your traffic and criminal record.
  4. Your lawyer will give the magistrate a copy of any evidence we want to rely on (e.g. your character references, letter of apology, photos of the offence location etc).
  5. The magistrate will read all of these documents. They will let us know when they have read everything.
  6. Your lawyer will then make ‘submissions’ – i.e. tell the magistrate what’s important in your case and make suggestions for the penalty that the magistrate should impose.
  7. The magistrate might ask the prosecutor if they have any submissions to make. Usually the prosecutor doesn’t have anything to say.
  8. The magistrate makes their decision. They will ask you to stand up. They will then tell you what the penalty is and explain the reasons they made that decision.

How long will my case take?

The Local Court is a very busy place, with lots of cases that need to be dealt with each day. 

Usually the magistrate will spend about 10 – 15 minutes in total on your case. That’s not a lot of time to convey everything that needs to be said. 

We focus on conveying the right information, and making the strongest submissions, as efficiently as possible. Being focussed gives you the best chance of a great result.

Will I have to talk to the magistrate?

Most likely no. Usually your lawyer will do all the talking. 

Occasionally the magistrate might ask you a question. If they do, you should stand up. Refer to the magistrate as “your Honour” (e.g. “yes your Honour”).

The good news is, if you have a lawyer the magistrate will direct all the hard questions to them. You would only usually be asked tidbits of information about yourself, or what you learnt at the Traffic Offender Program. 

Will the police officer be there?

The police officer usually won’t be at your sentencing hearing.

When a person pleads guilty the case is dealt with by the police prosecutors. These are like the police lawyers. 

What time should I arrive?

Your lawyer will tell you exactly when to meet them. Usually this will be somewhere between 9 and 9:30 am. This gives us enough time to have a good chat with you before we need to go into court.

What should I wear?

Business attire is the most appropriate thing to wear to court. 

What do I need to bring?

You should bring:

  • Original copies of your character references
  • Your driver’s licence
  • Your Traffic Offenders Program work book