Have you been charged with a criminal or traffic offence?
If you are facing criminal proceedings, or you have elected to have a penalty notice dealt with in court, you may be issued with a court attendance notice.
This notice requires you to appear in court on a certain date.
What should I do if I have received a court attendance notice?
If you have received a court attendance notice (CAN) in the mail or been given one by the police, it is important that you don’t ignore it.
Failing to appear in court at your designated time and place can lead to further criminal charges.
In more serious cases, you can even be arrested and placed in custody until you go to court.
The court can make decisions that will affect you potentially for the rest of your life.
It is a good idea to seek legal advice from an experienced lawyer if you are facing court proceedings, even if the charges against you are minor.
If you intend to plead guilty or represent yourself, you can still get free legal guidance from the duty lawyer at most courts.
If you do get a lawyer of your own, they can explain the court process to you, explain what is expected of you, and give you advice about how to plead and present your case as positively as possible.
If you ignore a court attendance notice and don’t turn up at court without a good reason, you can face further criminal charges.
In cases where you have been released on bail, not turning up at court can mean that you are in breach of bail.
This is a serious offence, and can mean forfeiting any surety that you or someone else has put up to allow you to be released.
In some cases, if you don’t appear at court the matter will be decided in your absence.
This means that you will miss out on the opportunity to present your case and explain the circumstances surrounding the alleged offence.
As a result, you may end up with a harsher penalty than you deserve.
What if I am sick or on holiday?
If you have a valid reason for not being able to attend court on your nominated day, make sure you phone the court as early as possible to advise staff of the situation.
If you are unwell, you will need to get a certificate from your doctor stating the reason you were unable to attend.
If you receive a court attendance notice and you know that you are going to be away on the nominated date, arrange for your court date to be rescheduled as soon as you can.
Keep in mind that you may need to provide the court with proof of your plans.
Can I plead guilty without having to appear in court?
In some cases, you may be able to submit a written notice of pleading if you wish to plead guilty and you won’t be able to attend court.
If you are on bail and are required to attend court as part of your conditions, you won’t be allowed to submit a written notice of pleading.
A written notice of pleading must be completed and sent back to the court at least seven days before your scheduled appearance.
Even if you are allowed to file a written notice of pleading, it is always best to appear in person, if possible.
This gives you the opportunity to answer any questions that the magistrate might have.