If you have been charged with a criminal offence and you are required to appear at a local or district court, you will be given a Court Attendance Notice advising you of the time and date of your scheduled court appearance. It is important that you attend court at the required time, as not turning up can lead to you being arrested on further charges.
Local Courts are able to deal with a wide range of criminal and traffic cases. Local court hearings are usually held in front of a magistrate, rather than a judge and jury, and the penalties that are given out are generally less severe than those in the district or supreme court. Although your local court case may be relatively minor, it is still important that any requirement to appear be taken seriously, even if you wish to have the matter dealt with quickly.
What should I do if I know in advance I won’t be available?
If you have received your Court Attendance Notice and you know you are going to be away or otherwise unavailable on that date for a valid reason, you can call the court registry and request a different date. You may be required to submit proof that you will be unavailable.
In some very minor cases, you can file a written notice of pleading at the registry of the Local Court House and the matter can be dealt with in your absence. It is important to note however, that having your case heard without you being present may not be legally advantageous, as you miss out on the chance to speak up for yourself.
If you are unable to attend on the day, you should phone the court as soon as possible to let them know. You will need to provide a medical certificate if you are sick, or other proof of your reasons for not attending. If you don’t have a reasonable excuse, it is expected that you attend court even if it is not necessarily convenient for you to do so.
What happens if I don’t show up?
If you don’t show up to court on the day of your scheduled appearance you could find yourself facing further charges. In some cases, such as AVO hearings, the matter could be decided in your absence, and you will miss out on the opportunity to present your defence.
In more serious matters, where your presence is required, you may be arrested and taken to court if you don’t attend without a good reason. If you have been released on bail and you fail to turn up for court, this could mean you are in breach of your bail terms, which is a criminal offence. You may also be required to forfeit any bail money that was put up on your behalf.
If you have been charged with breach of bail or you are in trouble for not showing up to court, it is a good idea to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible, particularly if you believe there are extenuating circumstances that should be taken into account.
Going to court is not an enjoyable experience for anyone, but it is important that you attend, even if you don’t want to. The consequences of not attending court far outweigh the stress and inconvenience of going.
If you have a history of not attending court when required, you may also find it more difficult to obtain bail for any future charges you may face.