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Negotiating in criminal cases

When you are charged with an offence or offences to be dealt with in the Local Court, you must decide quickly whether to plead guilty or not guilty to...

Justin Wong

When you are charged with an offence or offences to be dealt with in the Local Court, you must decide quickly whether to plead guilty or not guilty to each charge. Often this is an easy choice, but sometimes the case is not so clear.

Perhaps you have read the police facts and agree with some of what is said but disagree with other parts, or you have been charged with multiple offences but think you are only guilty of some of them. Perhaps you think you should have been charged with a lesser offence.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, there is a third option available to you other than simply pleading guilty or not guilty. That option is to negotiate with the prosecution to amend the charges or the police facts.

How does that work?

Negotiations in criminal matters are usually done through written “representations”. That means that we make a written offer to the prosecution and set out our reasons in support of that offer.

Sometimes the offer can be to plead guilty to certain charges if others are withdrawn or to plead guilty if the police facts are amended. Sometimes the representations simply suggest that the prosecution withdraw all charges.

Once the representations have been submitted, they are processed through the police chain of command. The Officer in Charge of the investigation will read the representations and write a report with his or her recommendation, which is then forwarded to the Prosecutor and the Crime Manager to review and make a final decision. This process usually takes about six weeks but varies depending on the case.

What should you do?

If you find yourself in a situation like this, or you would like to seek legal advice, our criminal lawyers can help.

It is always a good idea to seek legal advice before you enter any plea of guilty or not guilty, so that a lawyer can advise you of all your options.

To read about some cases where our lawyers have negotiated successfully with police, see these case studies: client has all charges withdrawn after negotiations and no conviction for common assault and contravene AVO.