Not so Splendid: lawyer warns against going solo in court
CRIME SCENE with Carl Edwards
FOLLOWING on from Splendour in the Grass, there are many young adults facing the stress of their first criminal offence and local court appearance.
I have received many calls from worried parents who want to help their children to avoid a criminal conviction.
But because a Google search on NSW drugs charges can yield detailed advice, clients are also asking whether it's a wise idea to self-represent in court.
My advice is, while it is your full legal right to represent yourself at court, there are a lot of serious pitfalls to consider before doing so.
The most common misconception for defendants is that a Magistrate will help to guide you through the court process.
This is not the case.
Magistrates are fully impartial, and are not able to give you strategic directions on how to best explain your circumstances, to achieve specific results.
Defendants on drug possession charges should be putting their best case forward for a Section 10 judgment, where a criminal conviction is not recorded.
A criminal conviction could have dire consequences on a young person's career, eligibility for professional licences and future travel overseas.
And certainly a criminal conviction is on the cards for anyone caught with MDMA pills at the gates of a music festival.
The reality is courts are not lenient is handing down Section 10 judgements.
Magistrates consider many factors, so it is a wise decision to contact a defence lawyer to help you to understand your options and to build your case.
For those who genuinely cannot afford representation, Legal Aid NSW offers grants to pay for a defence lawyer. These grants are means-tested.
As a Legal Aid NSW accredited defence solicitor, I proudly offer legal representation to those who cannot afford it, through my firm.
It is wise not to try to Google your way out of a conviction.
- Carl Edwards is a Tweed Heads-based criminal lawyer and a monthly columnist with the Tweed Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org