If you’re brought in for questioning in regards to a criminal offence, you may be wondering what police need to be able to charge you with an offence, and what happens if they do charge you.
Not all police investigations lead to a person being charged, however, if you are questioned in relation to an alleged offence, it can be a stressful time, so it’s good to know what to expect.
How police investigate a criminal allegation
If a complaint is made to police, they will undertake an investigation into that allegation. This will usually involve speaking to the person that has made the complaint (the complainant) and getting a statement from them. They may also speak to other potential witnesses and obtain evidence such as DNA, phone records or CCTV footage.
Once the police have undertaken a preliminary investigation into the allegation, they will seek the advice of a senior police officer (and sometimes the Office of Public Prosecutions) to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to charge someone with a criminal offence. If a complainant has signed a statement alleging a criminal offence, this is often sufficient for the police to lay a charge.
In some cases, the police may not be able to find enough evidence to lead to charges, though new evidence may be found at a later date which results in the investigation being reopened.
The police may arrest you or ask you to come in for questioning if an allegation of criminal conduct has been made against you. This is called a ‘record of interview’. It is important to know that police can use what you say during an interview against you. Once you have participated in a record of interview, it becomes evidence in the police investigation.
This is why it’s important to understand that if you’re questioned by the police, you have the right to remain silent, and speak with a lawyer before saying anything to the police. It’s easy to say something innocent that may be later used against you as evidence. Deciding whether to answer police questions or exercise your right to silence is a very important decision, and one that should be made with expert legal advice.
What happens once charges are laid?
Once a charge has been authorised, you are provided with a copy either directly from police or via your lawyer. The charge is also listed at Court.
Depending on the seriousness of the charge, you may be on summons or bail until your Court hearing. For serious offences, the police may apply to have you remanded into custody until your charges are dealt with.
There are many steps in a criminal proceeding. Each step can be complex, and require strategic decision making. Successfully defending criminal charges requires thorough preparation from an experienced criminal lawyer. Therefore, you should contact a lawyer as soon as you become aware of an allegation or when you are provided with a charge. Stary Norton Halphen has specialist lawyers experienced in defending criminal charges at each stage of the process. As a client of the firm, you are supported by the collective experience of many of the most highly respected criminal lawyers in Victoria.
Once all of the evidence has been provided to your lawyer, and you have been advised, you can make a decision about how you wish your matter to proceed. You have the right to plead guilty or not guilty. The prosecution needs to prove each charge beyond reasonable doubt before you are found guilty. If they cannot prove the charge beyond reasonable doubt, then you are not guilty of that offence. Your lawyer will advise you on each charge and the strength of the evidence against you.
How do police prove a criminal charge
Police bring the charges against an accused person, and therefore they are required to prove each charge beyond reasonable doubt. The accused person is not required to prove their innocence.
If you choose to plead not guilty and contest the charges against you, then the police must produce witnesses and any other evidence to the Court. Witnesses can be cross-examined about their evidence. If you choose, you can also give evidence or call witnesses. There are very important decisions that you will need to discuss with your lawyer.
Criminal lawyers Melbourne
If you’ve been charged with a criminal offence, you need to engage the services of experienced lawyers as soon as possible.
Being charged with a criminal offence can be stressful, and the legal system can be confusing for those not familiar with it. Having a lawyer on your side will help you better understand what you may be facing if the police have laid criminal charges against you, and what the process of fighting those charges may involve.
If you’ve been charged with a criminal offence, contact Stary Norton Halphen for experienced criminal lawyers in Melbourne.