If you’ve been charged with a drug offence, you may want to consider the MERIT Program. “MERIT” stands for “Magistrates Early Referral into Treatment” and is a program run by the courts to try and help people break the cycle of drug addiction and offending.

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for MERIT, you must:

  • Be an adult who is eligible for bail
  • Voluntarily agree to participate in the Program
  • Not be charged with a sexual offence or a strictly indictable offence, which are serious offences that can only be dealt with by the District or Supreme courts.
What does MERIT involve?

If you are accepted into MERIT, a treatment plan will be made which is tailored to your needs. Based on your circumstances, you might have to undergo detoxification, rehabilitation, counselling and so on. You’ll also have to undergo regular urine tests to test for drug use.

If you’re accepted into MERIT, you will be granted bail to participate in the program. This means that you’ll have to abide by any bail conditions that are imposed on you by the court – for example, you will have to be of good behaviour, and you will have to go back to court as requested by the magistrate. If you fail to abide by your bail conditions, you may be removed from the MERIT program and proceed straight to sentencing.

How can it help me get a lesser penalty?
Once you complete the MERIT program, you will most likely go back to court to be sentenced. The magistrate hearing your case will usually receive a report from your MERIT case worker, which details how you have progressed through the program in overcoming your drug addiction. If you’ve made a positive effort to engage in the program, that will be taken into account by the magistrate, who may give you a more lenient penalty.

MERIT Program Locations

The following Local Courts participate in the MERIT Program:

MERIT LOCATION MERIT – LOCAL HEALTH DISTRICT MERIT PHONE MERIT FAX
Albion Park Illawarra Shoalhaven MERIT  4254 2700 4254 2771
Ballina Northern NSW MERIT 6620 7650 6621 6212
Bankstown Sydney MERIT 9515 7611 9515 3722
Bathurst Western NSW MERIT 6392 6800 6392 6805
Blacktown Western Sydney MERIT 9840 3474
Blayney Western NSW MERIT 6392 6800 6392 6805
Broken Hill Far West NSW MERIT
Burwood Sydney Local MERIT 9515 7611 9515 3722
Byron Bay Northern NSW MERIT 6620 7650 6621 6212
Camden South West Sydney MERIT 8778 0700 8778 0768
Campbelltown South West Sydney MERIT 8778 0700 8778 0768
Casino Northern NSW MERIT 6620 7650 6621 6212
Cessnock Hunter New England MERIT  4016 4656 4016 4661
Coffs Harbour Mid North Coast MERIT   6650 0126 6650 0098
Cooma Southern NSW MERIT  6299 1725 6299 1426
Downing Centre South East Sydney MERIT  9332 8788 9332 8789
Dubbo Western NSW MERIT  6884 7089 6885 4577
Fairfield South West Sydney MERIT  8778 0700 8778 0768
Forbes Western NSW MERIT  6392 6800 6392 6805
Gosford Central Coast  MERIT  4320 3057 4320 2423
Grafton Northern NSW MERIT  6620 7650 6621 6212
Hornsby Northern Sydney MERIT 9462 9199 9439 2973
Junee Murrumbidgee MERIT  6923 5761 6923 5751
Katoomba Nepean Blue Mountains MERIT 4734 2131 4734 3145
Kempsey Mid North Coast MERIT  6586 6030 6586 6040
Kiama Illawarra Shoalhaven MERIT  4254 2700 4254 2771
Kogarah South Eastern Sydney MERIT 9521 8922 9521 8966
Kyogle Northern NSW MERIT  6620 7650 6621 6212
Lismore Northern NSW MERIT  6620 7650 6621 6212
Liverpool South Western Sydney MERIT  8778 0700 8778 0768
Maclean Northern NSW MERIT  6620 7650 6621 6212
Maitland Hunter New England MERIT  4016 4656 4016 4661
Manly Northern Sydney MERIT 9462 9199 9439 2973
Milton Illawarra Shoalhaven MERIT 4422 5822 4422 9684
Mt Druitt Nepean Blue Mountains MERIT 4734 2131 4734 3145
Mullimbimby Northern NSW MERIT 6620 7650 6621 6212
Murwillumbah Northern NSW MERIT 6620 7650 6621 6212
Muswellbrook Hunter New England MERIT 6543 2677 6541 4004
Newcastle Hunter New England MERIT 4016 4656 4016 4661
Newtown Sydney MERIT 9515 3722 9515 3722
North Sydney Northern Sydney MERIT 9462 9199 9439 2973
Nowra Illawarra Shoalhaven MERIT 4422 5822 4422 9684
Oberon Western NSW MERIT 6392 6800 6392 6805
Orange Western NSW MERIT 6392 6800 6392 6805
Parkes Western NSW MERIT 6392 6800 6392 6805
Parramatta Western Sydney MERIT 9840 3474
Penrith Nepean Blue Mountains MERIT 4734 2131 4734 3145
Port Kembla Illawarra Shoalhaven MERIT 4254 2700 4254 2771
Port Macquarie Mid North Coast MERIT 6586 6030 6586 6040
Queanbeyan Southern NSW MERIT 6299 1725 6299 1426
Raymond Terrace Hunter New England MERIT 4016 4656 4016 4661
Ryde Northern Sydney MERIT 9462 9199 9439 2973
Singleton Hunter New England MERIT 6543 2677 6541 4004
Sutherland South Eastern Sydney MERIT 9521 8922 9521 8966
Tamworth Hunter New England MERIT 6766 8081 6766 8083
Toronto Hunter New England MERIT 4016 4656 4016 4661
Tweed Heads Northern NSW MERIT 6620 7650 6621 6212
Wagga Wagga Murrumbidgee MERIT 6923 5761 6923 5751
Wauchope Mid North Coast MERIT 6586 6030 6586 6040
Waverley South Eastern Sydney MERIT 9211 9277 9281 5490
Wellington Western NSW MERIT 6884 7089 6885 4577
Wilcannia Far West NSW MERIT
Wollongong Illawarra Shoalhaven MERIT 4254 2700 4254 2771
Woy Woy Central Coast MERIT 4320 3057 4320 2423
Wyong Central Coast MERIT 4320 3057 4320 2423
Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?

Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with.

Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:

  1. Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results

    Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases. Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial. Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.

    We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.

    We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.

    Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.

  2. Highest Level of Client Satisfaction

    We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia. Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities. We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.

    We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.

  3. Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm

    We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running. The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.

  4. Fixed Fees

    We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004. We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.

    Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.

    Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.

  5. Free First Appointment

    For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers. We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.

  6. Specialist Lawyer Guarantee

    We guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court. This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.

  7. All NSW Courts

    From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases. And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.

  8. Accredited Specialists

    Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists. All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005. An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field. Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.

    Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.

  9. Results-Focused Law Firm

    Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet. The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’. Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.

    No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.

    The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.

  10. Team of Lawyers Behind You

    Our clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide. Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes. A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.

    In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.

  11. Familiar with Magistrates and Judges

    Each of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state. Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.

  12. Convenience

    We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:

    • the Sydney CBD, on Castlereagh Street, directly opposite Downing Centre Court,
    • Liverpool, directly opposite Liverpool Local Court, and
    • Parramatta, near the justice precinct.

    We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD and Liverpool locations, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.

    For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.

    If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at info@sydneycriminallawyers.com.au.

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