- Prepare what you are going to say. Most people get anxious when they appear for themselves in court. This often results in people becoming flustered and forgeting to mention something important. Prepare a list of things that you want to tell the court that you can refer to when things become stressful.
- Knowing what not to say to upset the Magistrate is almost as important as what you say. It is difficult to tell you everything that you should not to say. You should not exaggerate what occured and your story as to why you were drink driving You should not refer to penalties that friends may have received for similar charges.
- Always be truthful. Most Magistrates have more than 20 years legal experience in the courts and will usually see through made up excuses. You are more likely to get a better result by saying less than being untruthful and being caught out lying.
- Advise the court of your prior good character. You should advise the court of any major achievements in your life or charity work you have performed. Again, proof should be given to the court of such achievemnts or charity. If you drive a lot of kilometres each year you should provide the court with evidence of this. The most common ways are by either a log book or car service records.
- Advise the court about your ability to pay a fine. You may want to include:
- What you do for work
- How much you get paid
- The amount of your mortgage payment or rent
- All other major expenses
- How many people are dependant upon you for financial support
- Advise the court how a criminal record may affect your future. First time offenders may want to advise the court of the following:
- The extent to which a criminal conviction will affect your ability to work now or in the future. You will need to provide evidence (letter from your employer, a policy document from a registration body, etc.) of this if you want the Magistrate to take this seriously.
- The extent to which a criminal conviction will affect your travel plans. If plans have been made to travel and have been booked you should provide the court with copies of the flight details.
- Most western countries except Canada do not restrict entry to their country for a drink driving record.
- Tell the court about your need to drive. If you will lose your job if you lose your drivers licence you should have a letter from your employer stating this fact clearly.
- Tender well drafted character references. Court character references should paint a picture of you as a person. The author of the court character reference should give examples of the good things that they know about you. Example: "George Bradbury is a generous man especially with his time and his money. I remember driving home and seeing our elderly neighbour struggling to remove graffiti from his paling fence. George went missing for about 1/2 hour and then I saw George with our neighbour removing graffiti from the fence with a scrubbing brush and chemicals he had bought from K mart. George spent the rest of the day with our neighbour until all the graffiti was removed.”
- Be well mannered. Do not speak while the Magistrate is sentencing you, unless you are asked a specific question. Lionel Rattenbury is a Partner of Armstrong Legal. Lionel has over 20 years experience in criminal law and writes a criminal law text book. He is an Accredited specialist in criminal law. Armstrong Legal is Australia's largest private criminal law firm.