Australian law news

What You Should Do If You've Been Accused of a Crime, but There Are Errors in the Charge

The criminal justice system can be complicated and with good reason. The rights of the individual are always paramount and if someone is accused of a crime, then evidence must be brought forward to prove that they are guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt. This is why criminal defence attorneys exist, to make sure that someone who has been accused by the authorities has proper representation, once again due to the complexity of the system. If you've been charged with a criminal offence, but believe that the prosecutor has made errors in the case that they brought forward, what are your rights?

Mistakes Can Be Made

Public prosecutors are very busy, as they have to take on an enormous number of cases on any given day. They need to consider the facts as laid out by the police, determine a course of action and move forward. Sometimes, mistakes are made during this process, either by the police, the prosecution staff or both. If you can see that the case against you is flawed, you are perfectly entitled to ask for a disputed facts hearing.

How This Works

When you do this, you may be saying that you are guilty to a certain extent, but not in the way that the prosecution asserts. Both sides would then need to make submissions to a judge or magistrate during the disputed facts hearing, in the same way as they would if a defendant had claimed they were not guilty.

A Better Approach?

However, you need to play this carefully. If there is a divergence in the facts, but such differences are not really significant, then it may be better for your attorney to discuss the matter with the prosecutor directly. This is done by sending "representations" to their office, usually in the form of a letter, which will set out the areas in dispute. The aim here should be to get the authorities to simply drop the case, rather than go through a protracted dispute process.

Discretionary Power

There are a large variety of policy guidelines in place that cover whether or not cases should be brought forward by the prosecutors and it is always in the discretion of that office whether to proceed or not. In particular, the seriousness of the alleged offence will be a paramount consideration, as will any aggravating or mitigating circumstances associated. They may also consider the background, age and general health of the accused, as well.

Your Best Course of Action

If you've been accused but think that the case is flawed, get in touch with an experienced criminal law attorney; ideally one who has a good relationship with the prosecutor's office.