Speaking to a lawyer before going to court
Speaking to a lawyer at court
We have lawyers at most Magistrates' Courts in Victoria who help people on the day of their hearing if they do not have a lawyer. Our lawyers may be able to give you legal information, advice or representation depending on how much you earn, your circumstances and the nature of your charges.
When to represent yourself
You may choose to represent yourself because your charges are minor or because:
If you cannot get a lawyer to help you in court, you can still get legal advice and information about:
What to say about the charges in court
You can plead either:
- (say you did break the law)
- (say you did not break the law, or disagree with what the says you did).
To plead guilty, you need to accept what the prosecutor says you did. It is important to be clear about what you are agreeing to, as there can be serious consequences. So, even if you want court to be over as quickly as possible, talk to a lawyer first.
Pleading not guilty
A summary hearing is where the court listens to witnesses and other evidence and then makes a decision about the case (whether or not you are guilty of the charges).
Tips for talking to the magistrate
It is important to be respectful and polite when you are talking to the magistrate. Here are some tips:
- Stand up when the magistrate speaks to you
- Call the magistrate ‘Your Honour’
- Do not interrupt the magistrate when they talk – the magistrate will ask for more information if they need it
- Speak clearly and loudly
- Look at the magistrate when you speak (if you have notes you can read from your notes and look up and down).
Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.
We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au
Reviewed 17 May 2022