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Most people come to court because they have been charged with an offence or have received a document requiring them to attend.
You may be required to attend court because you are
a defendant or plaintiff in a civil matter
a defendant or accused in a criminal matter
an appellant or respondent in an appeal matter
a party to family law or apprehended violence order (AVO) proceedings
In this section you can find out about:
what to expect on your
first day in court
steps in a
penalty notice hearing
steps in a
criminal hearing or trial
steps in an
apprehended violence order hearing
witnesses and giving evidence
settling a civil case
steps in a
civil case hearing
sentences, orders and judgments
The court attendance notice or other document will provide the name of the court, the location and the date and time to attend.
Not sure when to attend? Each court publishes a daily list of the cases due to be heard. You can check the
online court list if your case is in the supreme, district or local court.
If your case is being held elsewhere, check the
court lists published by each court or tribunal.
For jury service information check
tomorrow's jury service lists.
Defendants and witnesses need to attend court in person, unless they have been formally excused.
Usually only a lawyer can represent a defendant at court or you can represent yourself. As a defendant you need to attend court even if you have a lawyer representing you.
However, there are some exceptions.
If you are on bail, you must attend court in person. If you do not attend (and you were not excused from attending), the court can issue a warrant for your arrest.
If you are attending the local court for a penalty notice offence you can ask the court to hear the case in your absence by filing a written notice of plea. For more information see the
Local Court website.
If you cannot attend civil proceedings in the local court you can make an application to appear by telephone in some instances. Making the application does not mean it is automatically granted. Your application to attend by telephone will be considered by a judicial officer.
You will need to check prior to the day whether the application has been granted. If the application is not granted, you must attend or orders can be made in your absence.
If you are a party directly involved in a case it is in your interest to be at court while hearings are held.
If you cannot attend court, contact the court as soon as possible to discuss options. If you do not attend court a warrant may be issued for your arrest.
If you are sick on the day of the hearing, telephone the court to advise them you cannot come. You will be asked to provide a medical certificate and the judicial officer will be informed.
However, there is no guarantee that the matter will be given another date. The judicial officer may decide to hear the case in your absence or could issue a warrant for your arrest.
You will need to
contact the court at the end of the day to check what the court decision was.
You can bring a friend or family member to court as your support person. However, if you want someone other than a lawyer to speak on your behalf you will have to ask the judicial officer.
When you appear in court you need to know what your next steps are. For example, in criminal matters the judicial officer will ask you whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty. In civil matters, you will need to know what orders you are asking the court to make.
Find out more about
pleas in criminal proceedings.
You should do your research and seek legal advice well before you go to court.
Where to get legal information and advice.
If you do not have your own lawyer at a court or tribunal, there may be a duty lawyer available at the local court or other courts and tribunals. See Legal Aid to find out where
duty lawyers are available
Asking for an adjournment
If you are a defendant and are still unsure about how to plead on the first date at court, you can ask the court to set another date so you can get legal advice before you enter a plea. This is called asking for an adjournment.
If the judicial officer agrees, your case will be given another date for you to attend. If you are on
bail, your bail will be continued until the next date.
Legal Dictionary at LawAccess.