Do I even need a lawyer?
So you find yourself in some kind of trouble or an incident has happened in your life where you might consider that you may need to help of a lawyer or a solicitor. this could be something as simple as a traffic infringement which you want to dispute or it could be something more sinister where you have actually committed a crime that carries a possible jail sentence. Misdemeanours or crimes that don’t carry any kind of punishment that involves going to prison can usually be dealt with by yourself by either paying the fine or representing yourself in the local magistrates Court. On the other hand if you have committed some kind of serious crime which carries a possible prison sentence, you will be obliged by the courts to get some kind of legal representation.
If you have committed some kind of crime that is considered a criminal matter, you will definitely need to seek the services of a criminal lawyer. If you are unable to raise the finances to hire a criminal lawyer the government or the legal aid commission will assign a public attorney to your case. Something to consider when using a court appointed Solicitor is that they often have a very heavy workload and won’t be able to give you the attention that a private lawyer will normally be able to give to your case. This is not to say that public attorneys aren’t good at their job, as many public defenders are extremely good and passionate about their work.
Civil matters are usually court cases that involve some kind of dispute between two parties or a member of the general public. For example a homeowner may be involved in a dispute with one of his neighbours regarding the removal of the tree that is dropping leaves and/or deemed to be dangerous by the party involved and could lead to a personal injury. In this case a matter would be lodged with the local Court and dealt with by the presiding Magistrate in order to come to some kind of agreement for both parties and in some case may even require recompense. This is where the law can become very complicated and the presiding judge will often rely on a section of the Law call precedence where he will look at previous cases and make some kind of ruling based on similar cases and their outcomes in the past.
When the matter is presented before the court and the defendant could served more than two years in prison, the matter must be referred to the district Court where the presiding judge has the power to hand out much more stiffer penalties. Most cases that are heard in the district Court will be defended by a more senior legal professional such as a barrister or a Queen’s Counsel.
When these types of legal professionals are required by the defendant the expenses related to the court case and all of the costs incurred by the court case can be an exceptional burden upon the defendant. Legal aid can also supply a barrister to a low income earner if the courts so require that this level of representation is required. Upon a ruling or judgement being made at on the case the defendant will not be liable for any costs to the court if he is found not guilty.
In Australia we practice what is known as the Westminster system of justice where the burden of proof is upon the defendant. In other words you are innocent until proven guilty.
Where does the presumption of innocence come from?
Australia is a party to seven core international human rights treaties. The presumption of innocence is contained in article 14(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Make the right choice.
Before commencing with any type of court case scenario or possible legal action, it is advisable to seek some kind of advice of a professional third-party as to whether or not you actually need legal representation in order to have a successful outcome of your court case. Legal aid often offers free advice or you can actually call them on the phone and talk to somebody about your case and make an appropriate decision as to whether or not you actually need a lawyer or advice to sign a contract.
Disclaimer: While we have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended as legal advice. All individual circumstances will differ and such should be discussed with a lawyer.