The legal system is complex. Being charged with a crime can have ongoing impacts on your life.
A lawyer works for you and will help you navigate and understand the system to ensure that your rights are protected.
A lawyer can help you by:
If you have been charged with an offence and have a court date, the first thing you should do is get legal advice from a lawyer.
The duty lawyer can help you on the day if you don’t have a lawyer.
Duty lawyer services are subject to eligibility criteria you can read more about here.
When you get to court, you can tell the court registrar that you would like to speak to the duty lawyer.
Depending on what you have been charged with and your financial circumstances, you may be eligible for legal aid. This means that Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) will cover all or most of your legal costs for your matter.
Even if your charges are considered 'minor', you may be eligible for funding for a lawyer. VLA will provide Special Circumstances funding if you are:
VLA has in-house lawyers who can represent you at court and work on your case.
You can also choose a private lawyer from VLA's directory who will be paid by VLA. VLA will provide funding to cover the costs (or most of the costs) of your matter.
If you are not eligible for Legal Aid funding you have the following options:
Before you meet with a lawyer, download and complete Preparing for court: client form (PDF, 276KB).
Ask someone you trust to help you fill the form in, like a support worker, carer, family member or friend.
Completing this form will tell a lawyer important information they need to know so they can:
Take the completed form with you to meetings with your lawyer, and to court.
What the ‘Preparing for court: client form (PDF 276KB)’ contains:
Communication preferences – how you prefer to receive information, as part of establishing respectful communications
Living and financial arrangements – where you are living, how you are supporting yourself and others financially, and if you are receiving any pensions or benefits
Care and support – records of injuries and accidents affecting your head or spinal area, support and treatment history, disability diagnosis and reports, NDIS plan information and details of your GP
Further information – additional information you want your lawyer to know to help your case, and contact information of anyone who helped you complete the questionnaire
Additional questions – specific queries or concerns you want answered by your lawyer
Your lawyer works for you and is there to help you. It is important that you tell your lawyer if you don’t understand what they are saying.
It’s a good idea to tell your lawyer how you would like to be communicated to. You can ask your lawyer to:
It’s OK to ask your lawyer how strong the police case is or what your options are.
You might also want to tell your lawyer about this website.
Supporting Justice © Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University, 2019
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