There are three separate processes that make up the Criminal Law QLD Justice System. The first is the police who investigate the crime, the second is the Court system which imposes the penalty, and the third is the penal system which governs community service, parole, and the custodial sentence.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence in QLD, it will first be heard in the Magistrates Court who will then decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed, and which QLD Court should hear the matter.
The Magistrates Court deals mainly with less serious matters known as summary offences. However, if the offence is of a serious nature it will be classes as an indictable offence, and transferred to either the District Court or the Supreme Court. Some indictable offences can be elected to be heard in the Magistrates Court depending on the nature of the offence, and the likely penalty. There are also Drug Courts, within the Magistrate Court system, which allow for offenders to be placed on a court diversion program.
The QLD Children’s Courts are for any offenders under the age of 17, and are contained within both the Magistrates Court and the District Court. Overall there are 131 Magistrates Courts, 32 District Courts, and 11 Supreme Courts throughout Queensland.
Criminal Law QLD Legislation
Criminal law in Queensland is governed by the Criminal Code 1899 which was developed to encompass the many types of criminal offences. It outlines the penalties, whether it is an indictable or summary offence, and states the procedure rules and practices that must be followed. There is also specific legislation that deals with certain offences, such as the Drugs Misuse Act 1986, Weapons Act 1990, Bail Act 1980, Criminal Proceeds Confiscations Act 2002, and the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2012. Each of these acts outlines the procedures to be followed, the elements of the different types of offences, and the penalties that can be imposed by the Courts. The Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 gives the Police the necessary power to investigate, and charge offenders. This Act is also designed to provide protection to the public by clearly identifying what the police can, and can’t do in the line of duty.
Pleas and Penalties in QLD
It is important to obtain legal advice if the police want to question you about a particular incident, or you have been charged with a criminal offence in QLD. Knowing your rights and the best way to proceed will ultimately provide you with a better outcome. If it is your first time in court, the process can be daunting, and it is imperative that you know whether you should be pleading guilty, or not guilty, and the type of penalty that may be imposed. If you have a clean criminal record you can keep it that way by convincing the Magistrate that a no conviction should be recorded. If a no conviction is recorded, and you are asked by an employer, insurance company or overseas embassy if you have ever received a conviction you can then answer “no”. You do need to be careful though, as to how the question is asked, because if you are asked if you have previously been charged you will need to answer “yes”. Sometimes, a no conviction will still need to be disclosed, especially if applying for a working with children’s card, as any no convictions will still be taken into consideration when your suitability is being assessed.
Criminal Appeals in QLD
The appeal process in Criminal Law QLD differs depending on which court you were convicted in. If you plead guilty in a Magistrates Court you can only appeal the severity of the penalty. If you plead not guilty and convicted after a trial you can appeal both the conviction and the sentence. All appeals from the Magistrates Court are heard in the District Court. You have one calendar month to file the Notice of Appeal and state the grounds of the appeal, and how the Magistrate erred. If you were convicted in the District Court, or Supreme Court, you need to file the appeal, within one calendar month, in the Court of Appeal. Three judges sit in the Court of Appeal to determine your matter. You do need to carefully consider lodging any Appeal; as if you are unsuccessful you can have costs awarded against you, and your penalty increased.