A duty lawyer is employed by Legal Aid WA, to give advice and to represent people who have been charged with a criminal offence. Their services are restricted to cases appearing in the Magistrates Court. They can advise on a wide range of issues and can help you in many other ways. If you cannot afford to consult with criminal lawyers, the duty lawyer can help you.
However, if the matter is to be heard in the Supreme Court or the District Court, or if it goes before the President of the Children’s Court duty lawyers will not be able to represent you unless you already have a lawyer who asks them to represent you on that day.
How can a duty lawyer help you?
There are many ways in which they help those who have to go to court.
- They can tell you whether you should plead guilty or not guilty.
- They can explain just how serious the charge is and what the likely minimum penalty is.
- The can advise you about the defence you have.
- They’ll tell you what to expect and do in court.
- They can advise on bail issues.
However, if your case is more serious, a criminal lawyer is the best option. They will be able to support, advice and represent you in the District or Supreme Courts. They are highly qualified and experienced and can also represent you in the Magistrate’s Court if you want them to.
It is comforting to know you have someone who knows the law inside and out and can make sure you don’t do or say anything that can be used against you. They can get you out on bail if possible and ensure that your case gets a fair hearing.
Of course, a duty lawyer can also represent you in court and apply for bail on your behalf. They can also apply for more time in order for you to get more information or legal advice, tell the court if you are pleading not guilty and speak for you if you plead guilty. Unfortunately, you can only talk to them on the day of the court hearing and if imprisonment is one of the options for your offence.
The duty lawyer cannot represent you if you plead not guilty during your trial, except for when you first go to court. When this plea is entered, another date will be set for the trial and at that time you will need to have the services of a private lawyer for the best result. However, the duty lawyer will be able to tell you whether you have a good defence and explain the trial process to you.