It can be difficult to navigate the criminal justice system alone. Therefore, if you have been charged with a criminal offence, hiring an experienced criminal defence lawyer is an essential first step. Your lawyer will be able to help you understand what your rights are and offer guidance on the course of action that will lead to the best outcome for you. 

If you choose to forgo professional legal representation at any stage in the process, you leave yourself open to delays, added stress and receiving an undesirable outcome.

The Importance of Speaking with a Criminal Defence Lawyer Early in Proceedings

From the moment that you are contacted by law enforcement in relation to an allegation made against you, everything you say will be examined. This can be in the form of a field interview, captured usually on a body worn camera, or a formal interview at a Police Station. From that moment, you are a person of interest or suspect in a criminal investigation, which may proceed to charge and prosecution. This is where your criminal defence begins.

Ideally, before you speak with a member of law enforcement, such as a member of the Police, you should get informed legal advice because the manner in which you conduct a record of interview with Police will have a very real effect on whether or not you are charged and how the prosecution is conducted. Unfortunately, we regularly meet with clients who come to us having already conducted a record of interview, without legal advice, and have done themselves a disservice by not taking the process seriously, genuinely believing that the Police just “want a chat” or because they want to save themselves the time and cost of engaging a lawyer. They always regret doing it themselves, without the benefit of legal advice.

Thereafter, if your matter proceeds to charge and prosecution, there will be several choices that you will have to make. The most important is whether to engage a lawyer to act for you in the proceedings. More often, accused people will elect to self-represent (DIY) in the Magistrates’ Court where they consider the matter to be relatively minor and where they are confident that any sentence they received will be relatively lenient. However, the alternative of using a criminal defence lawyer should be seriously considered.

The Benefits of Hiring a Criminal Defence Lawyer

Without the benefit of competent legal advice, you may self-represent in Court, be convinced to plead guilty by Police and have a criminal history recorded against you whilst never knowing that it could have been avoided. Having a criminal history has inevitable impacts upon your future. Our blog on these impacts can be located on our website:

Criminal defence lawyers have years of training and education to be able to properly analyse evidence and assess whether there is any possible defence. A case that may appear strong against you might easily be unraveled by a trained criminal defence lawyer. There may be time periods involved, a lack of evidence in relation to certain elements of the offence, a live defence which hasn’t been properly appreciated by Police, or an argument as to why the prosecution should not proceed. This may result in the charges being withdrawn or a successful defence.

1. A Criminal Defence Lawyer Can Help You Understand the Charges Against You

It can sometimes be challenging to understand what you have been charged with and what is required of you. Your criminal defence lawyer can assist you in understanding the charges against you by outlining what the prosecution must prove, whether there are any available defences, and potential sentencing outcomes.  

Beyond this, they can inform you of how these charges may impact other ongoing proceedings. For example, having an intervention order placed against you can have negative consequences on visa applications, debt recovery and family law proceedings. This is why it is important to seek legal advice and, preferably, to have a criminal defence lawyer appear for you to represent your interests to the Police, Applicants and also the Courts. When attempting to manage the proceedings on your own, people often feel disadvantaged and pressured to concede to an Order being made against them.

2. A Criminal Defence Lawyer Can Develop a Defence Strategy Tailored to your Specific Case

When facing a criminal charge or an intervention order, it is essential to retain a criminal defence lawyer who understands how to build a defence strategy that is targeted to your individual situation. This is because they are well versed in many areas of criminal law and are skilled in undertaking legal research.

The evidence in support of your criminal charge will be contained in the prosecution brief of evidence, which includes witness statements and exhibits. Particularly for more serious criminal matters, such as murder, these documents can be quite lengthy, making easier to miss key pieces of information if you are not experienced.

3. A Criminal Defence Lawyer will Represent You at Trial

If you choose to represent yourself, it will require you to prepare court documents, gather and then present evidence to the court, as well as potentially examine any witnesses. This can be difficult for people without any practical legal knowledge to manage. This could inadvertently put your case at risk. Lawyers are familiar with court processes and are experienced with the best court strategies. Even minor details, such as courtroom etiquette, can be unknown if you are unfamiliar with the court system.

4. A Criminal Defence Lawyer Can Reduce Your Stress and Worry

Facing criminal charges can be extremely overwhelming. This stress can be exacerbated if you seek to represent yourself. A criminal defence lawyer will help to reduce this stress by taking on the responsibility of preparing court documents, gathering and analysing evidence, undertaking legal research, and corresponding with the other parties involved. Therefore, hiring a criminal defence lawyer will make the process easier for you and will allow you to focus on other aspects of your life.

 5. A Criminal Defence Lawyer can Help Appeal your Conviction

Filing an appeal is a multi-step process and meeting the standard required can be difficult. The appeal process can be daunting, confusing and emotional for convicted persons and their families, and many questions are usually asked about the avenues available once a Trial or Plea is over. Thereby, making it essential to have an experienced lawyer help you through the process.

In cases from 2021, Court of Appeal made very clear that inordinate and unexplained delay may lead to a refusal of an application for extension of time. Therefore, seeking to engage in this process alone will be more time consuming, which could ultimately impact the success of your appeal. It is imperative to engage experienced and competent criminal appeal lawyers who can act promptly to progress your appeal from its earliest stage.

Do I Need a Criminal Defence Lawyer if I’m Going to Plead Guilty?

Even if a plea of guilty is inevitable in your case, a trained criminal defence lawyer knows how to prepare and conduct a compelling plea of guilty to convince a Magistrate or Judge to impose a lenient penalty. We frequently have new clients come into our office, having conducted their own pleas in the Magistrates’ Court only to have a harsh penalty imposed, which they then have to appeal to the County Court. Having experienced the stress of having their matter go wrong, they turn to our firm for help, and we can usually immediately identify where the DIY defence went terribly wrong.

The Dangers of DIY Defence

The danger of your matter going terribly wrong only increases if you are proposing to self-represent and challenge an allegation (ie, self-represent at trial or contest). We cannot stress enough how disastrous a DIY defence can be in these circumstances.

Firstly, where you are a self-represented accused (acting as both the accused and Counsel) it is impossible for you to detach yourself from the proceedings. Having a lawyer represent you means that you have a representative who is applying an objective and forensic mind to your matter, without the emotion and stress of also being the accused person.

Secondly, there is an art to cross-examining witnesses. This is an art learned by Counsel over years of experience, and often with the benefit of being trained by senior lawyers with decades of experience. This inherited knowledge is invaluable. Notwithstanding what you might see on television, cross-examination is not about yelling at witnesses or slamming fists on the bar table. It is about properly and forensically unravelling their accounts, eliciting evidence that can be used in the defence to the specific charge, properly exploring their credibility and reliability, and maximising your prospects of success.

Thirdly, and most obviously, unless you are a lawyer, you are unlikely to properly understand and know the law. Law in Victoria is developed in two ways: legislation and case law. Legislation creates most offences in our law. Case law commands how we interpret the law and apply it.  Any person can access legislation and read it. However, in order to properly and successfully defend yourself, you need the skill and experience of a criminal defence lawyer who knows how that law has been interpreted throughout the case law and applied.

Finally, if you contest an allegation, cross-examine witnesses and are then found guilty by a Magistrate or Judge, you have deprived yourself of the maximum possible plea discount. Where you go to trial and lose, you cannot argue that you are remorseful, nor that you have resolved the matter without expending court time and resources. This means that the nature of the sentence you will receive will be more severe than if you have pleaded guilty prior to the trial. If you are going to serve a period of imprisonment (either in custody or on a community corrections order), the length of that sentence will also be longer. The consequences for you will be very real, and without the proper legal representation, you might find yourself in a really difficult position and it may be too late.

Why Choose Galbally Parker Criminal Defence Lawyers

Whilst engaging lawyers might seem daunting, it is important for you to make enquiries of experienced criminal defence firms, such as Galbally Parker Lawyers, in relation to your options for receiving advice. Galbally Parker lawyers can help you through this difficult time. We have a track record of successes in the recent and the more distant past due to our highly qualified team of criminal defence lawyers proficient in many areas of law. We have a team of expert lawyers with experience in a range of different areas of the law, including, organised crime, criminal appeals, bail applications, assault, murder and manslaughter, drug offences, fraud, family violence offences and customs offences

At Galbally Parker, we offer clients an obligation-free Initial Client Consultation at a fixed fee of $330.00. This allows you up to 60 minutes with one of our lawyers, who will have read the preliminary material in relation to your matter beforehand.

If you have been contacted by Police, who want to conduct a record of interview with you, we provide pre-interview advice and representation at a fixed fee of $1100.00. This includes contacting Police on your behalf to get a better understanding of the allegations, organising the time and location of the interview, properly preparing you for the interview, and giving you pre-interview advice, as well as being on call during the interview in case you require further advice.

By getting competent legal advice as early in the proceedings as you can, you can avoid the significant cost, time and stress that comes with engaging lawyers down the track in circumstances where you have come to regret your decision to DIY. Whilst you can DIY when it comes to building a bookshelf, fixing a pair of pants or doing your gardening, you should not DIY when it comes to your criminal defence.