General Overview Criminal Law

If you have been charged with a criminal offence or a traffic violation, you may have to go to Court. Getting competent, strategic legal advice at an early stage can make a big difference to the outcome of your matter. We are very experienced criminal lawyers and can assist with all areas of criminal law, including:

  • Driving and traffic offences – drink-driving (DUI), speeding, licence suspensions, licensing appeals, negligent/dangerous driving
  • Drug offences – possession, cultivation, dealing
  • Firearms licensing appeals and dangerous weapon offences
  • Robbery or theft allegations
  • Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) offences and Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) offences and applications
  • Violent crimes including assaults, sexual offences, murder or manslaughter
  • Bail applications
  • Appeals and defended hearings
  • Centrelink and fraud related offences

The criminal law process

If you have been charged with a criminal offence, your matter might be dealt with in the Local Court if it is a less serious matter. Criminal matters heard in the Local Court are referred to as summary offences. If your matter is more serious, it may be dealt with in the District Court. Some matters can be heard in the Local Court or the District Court.

The Supreme Court only deals with the most serious criminal offences of murder, manslaughter, treason, and piracy. Matters in the District Court or Supreme Court are dealt with ‘on indictment’.

The Court procedures that apply to the hearing of a criminal matter are different in the Local Court compared to the District and Supreme Courts. If you have been charged with any offence, it is important to speak with an experienced criminal lawyer regardless of which Court your matter will be heard in.

Bail applications

If you have been arrested and charged with an offence, you might be released on bail until your matter is heard by the CourtCourt. Bail may be granted conditionally, meaning that you must comply with a condition (such as a reporting obligation at a police station, a curfew, or an order that you do not enter a certain area until your matter is resolved). If there are conditions on your bail that you think you will be unable to comply with, you can apply to the Court to have a condition varied. It is important that you comply with your bail conditions. If you are found to breach a bail condition, you may be taken back into custody until the hearing proceeds.


If you are found guilty of an offence, or you have pleaded guilty, you will be sentenced by a Court according to the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act. If your matter is being heard in the Local Court and you are found guilty, the longest prison term a magistrate may sentence you to for one offence is two years and a maximum total of three years for more than one offence. If you are sentenced in a higher Court, the highest sentence that may be imposed is outlined in the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). A Court may also choose to dismiss a matter without convicting you, even though the offence was proved, or impose a suspended sentence with a good behaviour bond.

In deciding what is an appropriate sentence, a Court will consider ‘aggravating’ and ‘mitigating’ factors. These factors help a judge or magistrate to make a finding about how serious your offence was compared to other similar offences. Usually, a person found guilty will have some evidence to give to a judge or magistrate that may be considered in sentencing. The type of evidence that would be appropriate depends on the charges and the outcome sought.

Children’s Court

In New South Wales, the Children’s Court deals with criminal matters where an alleged offender was between 10 and 18 years at the time of committing an offence. As with criminal proceedings involving adults, a brief of evidence will not be served in proceedings involving children until a plea of not guilty is entered. A hearing will only proceed if the plea of not guilty is maintained after service of the brief.

A key difference to proceedings dealt with in the Children’s Court is that the desirability of an offender taking responsibility for their actions is balanced against other principles, such as the desirability that children maintain family and community ties. Proceedings are also less formal than other jurisdictions and are held in closed Court.

Facing a criminal charge, and a possible conviction, can be extremely overwhelming. It is important that your rights and interests are protected throughout the entire process to ensure that you can obtain the best possible outcome in your circumstances. We have decades of criminal law knowledge and are very experienced Court advocates. We have helped clients accused of serious criminal offences as well as minor charges and traffic infringements. We can also assist victims of a criminal assault to seek compensation.

If you need assistance, or to arrange a consultation with an Illawarra criminal lawyer contact [email protected] or call 02 4297 6066 for expert legal advice.