If you have been charged with a criminal offence, or even a traffic offence, you might take the prudent course of consulting a lawyer to represent you in court.
When you first visit your lawyer, they will expect you to be able to tell them about your case. It is surprising how many people know very little about what they have been charged with or the facts which are alleged against them.
If you have been charged and released on bail, the police should give you the following things:
- Your charge sheet (called a ‘prosecution notice’);
- An outline of the offence alleged against you (called the ‘statement of material facts);
- Certain statutory notices indicating if you took part in an interview, or if you have a criminal record;
- A copy of any video recorded interview conducted with you; and
- Your bail undertaking (shows your next court date, and the terms of your bail), although they can release you without a bail undertaking.
[Sometimes, they only give you the bail undertaking. If they have already charged you, they should also give you the prosecution notice and the statement of material facts.]
Unsurprisingly, you should bring all of those things with you to your appointment with your lawyer.
Your lawyer will want to know whether you think that you are guilty or not guilty. Your lawyer may ask you why you think that. Sometimes people assume that they are guilty because they did the thing they are charged with, for example, they punched another person, in circumstances where they are charged with assault. What you think can be a very good indication of guilt (or innocence). Your lawyer will probably tell you if they agree. Or they might suggest to you that you if you were acting in self defence when you punched the other person, that your belief that you are guilty is possibly mistaken.
Likewise, people will sometimes think that their behaviour does not amount to a criminal offence when an objective appraisal of the facts indicates otherwise.
Your lawyer will advise you whether the facts alleged against you amount to an offence, or whether you have a defence.
If it is recommended that you should plead guilty, your lawyer can tell you what the maximum penalty permitted by law is, and what sort of penalty they expect to be imposed in your particular case. It is exceptional for courts to impose the maximum penalty. Almost inevitably the penalty which is imposed is a fraction of the maximum penalty.