Get legal advice

Why this is important

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:

  • providing expert advice on the case against you
  • advising you on what your options are
  • representing you in court
  • finding support and accessing specialist courts.

What to do

Step 1. Find a lawyer

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.

Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) provides a duty lawyer service for people who do not have a lawyer when they arrive at court.

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.

Step 1A. Find out if you are eligible for Legal Aid

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:

  • registered under the Disability Act 2006, and/or
  • registered with an Area Mental Health Service

Step 1B. Contact a legal service

Eligible for Legal Aid

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.

Not eligible for Legal Aid

If you are not eligible for Legal Aid funding you have the following options:

Step 2. Complete the ‘Preparing for court: client form’

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:

  • help you in the best way in court
  • help you access any support you might need.

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

Step 3. Meeting with 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:

  • write down the advice that they give you
  • use different words to describe legal terms
  • remind you about your court dates.

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

Supporting Justice © Centre for Innovative Justice, RMIT University, 2019

Questions or feedback: contact@supportingjustice.net

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