We can help if you are facing criminal charges and need advice and representation in court. We handle a range of criminal law matters and provide practical, no-nonsense advice so you know where you stand and can pursue the best possible outcome in your circumstances.
Going to Court
Most crimes in Victoria are codified in the Crimes Act 1958. This Act covers a range of offences relating to violence, sex offences, property, fraud, arson, corruption, breaches of the peace and others. Within the Act, each crime is broken down into its elements. In a criminal trial, it is up to the prosecution to prove each of these elements to a high standard – so that there is no reasonable doubt that the person is guilty of the offence.
The role of a criminal defence solicitor is to evaluate the strength and credibility of the police evidence. Based on this evaluation, a solicitor will explain the charge, the potential penalties, and the available options to the accused client. If the accused client decides to defend the charge, the matter will go to a court hearing. At the hearing, the solicitor will work to cast doubt on the evidence presented by the prosecution to prove that the prosecution has not met the burden of proving each element of the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
Someone accused with a crime in Victoria can mount a factual defence. For instance, the defendant may provide evidence of an alibi for the time of the offence or try to prove that an identification was faulty.
Alternatively, the defendant may put forward a legal defence. A legal defence does not deny the facts as they are put forward by the prosecution but, rather, argues that the defendant should not be convicted. A simple example of a legal defence is that the charge is statute barred. For example, in the case of some less offences, the police only have twelve months to lay charges. If that period passes, the defendant has a complete defence to the charge.
A more complex example of a legal defence is self-defence. This defence is available when a person charged with an offence involving force (such as assault) can prove that they used only the necessary force to defend themselves, another person, or their property. This defence is more complex than a simple argument about a limitation of action. To prove self-defence, the accused needs to show that at the time of the incident, they believed on reasonable grounds that the force they used was necessary and prove that the force used was proportionate to the threat. For instance, if someone is threatening to punch someone, it could be reasonable to feel threatened, and to respond by punching the aggressor. It would be less reasonable to respond by shooting the aggressor.
There are numerous other defences that can be used with a criminal charge in Victoria. A defendant can argue that they acted under duress, due to a sudden or extraordinary emergency, or as the result of mental impairment or intoxication. A defendant might also claim that they acted out of an honest and reasonable mistake, or that they had the right to act as they did. All these defences have limitations and can only be successfully argued in certain circumstances. A criminal defence solicitor will work through the available defences and suggest an approach that is most likely to result in an acquittal.
Frequently a client will seek to achieve the most favourable result in the circumstances by pleading guilty to some charges if the prosecution agrees to withdraw other charges. This practice is commonly referred to as plea bargaining and avoids the cost, stress, and uncertainty of a contested hearing. We can assist you in liaising with the prosecution to reach the best outcome in cases where, for various reasons, it is not in your best interests to proceed to a contested hearing.