Do I need a lawyer?

When to consult a lawyer

You should consult a lawyer if:

  • you are considering pleading not guilty, as discussed in Should I plead guilty?
  • you are in real jeopardy in terms of going to prison. The magistrate will often alert you to this possibility and advise you to see a lawyer.

Generally a lawyer should be consulted:

  • where you are appearing in court for a second major offence within a short period of time, say 12 months.
  • where you are appearing for a third or subsequent offence.
  • if you have been declared to be a 'habitual traffic offender' (see Some additional matters)
  • where you are appearing for an alcohol-related driving offence and a drive whilst disqualified offence arising out of the same incident.
  • where you are appearing in court for an alcohol-related driving offence and any other major charge, such as "Drive Manner Dangerous".
  • where the drink driving lead to an accident.
  • where you are already on a bond and the commission of this offence constitutes a breach of that bond.
  • if you have been charged with High Range PCA and after reading the information below decide one or more of the factors apply to you or you believe there were extenuating circumstances surrounding the offence.
  • where you have been "advised" to obtain legal advice by the magistrate.
  • if you have finished reading this book and find the prospect of representing yourself too daunting.
Consulting a lawyer for high range PCA

In September 2004 the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal set out a guideline that magistrates must follow when determining a penalty for a high range PCA. The aim of the guideline is to bring about consistency in sentencing and to ensure that courts apply adequate sentences given that high range PCA is considered to be one of the most serious summary offences.

A study of PCA matters in NSW local courts after the guideline came into effect shows there has been a significant change in the way magistrates deal with high range PCA matters. Magistrates are rarely using s10 non-conviction orders and as a consequence there has been an increase in the number of offenders having their licence revoked. The length of disqualification periods has increased and magistrates are using other penalties such as community service orders, Intensive Correction Orders and prison more regularly.

If you have been charged with High Range PCA you should consult a lawyer:

  • if any one or more of the following applied when you were apprehended:
    • your reading was well above 0.15;
    • you were driving erratically;
    • you were involved in a collision;
    • you were racing or showing off;
    • you were on a long journey;
    • there were passengers in the vehicle.
  • If you believe you had a compelling reason for driving, such as, you had to transport someone to hospital in an emergency.
Getting the best representation

In seeking legal advice you should ensure you are obtaining the best advice possible. There is little point in having a wills specialist represent you on a High Range PCA. In New South Wales the Law Society has a specialist accreditation scheme and one of the categories is criminal law. You should ensure that the lawyer representing you is an accredited criminal law specialist. If there is a real possibility of imprisonment you may be eligible for legal aid. Further information contains information on how to locate an accredited criminal law specialist in your area.