Serious offences

Commonly asked questions about serious offences

Serious offences include but are not limited to:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Serious drug offences
  • Violent offences
  • Serious sexual offences
  • Robbery

Possible defences to criminal charges include but are not limited to:

  • Self defence
  • Duress
  • Necessity
  • Intoxication (this may have a bearing on the offender’s intent)
  • Honest and reasonable mistake
  • Automatism
  • Mental illness

If you have been charged with a serious indictable offence, then the issue of where your case will be heard is of paramount importance. This is because lower maximum penalties apply in the Local Court, which is lowest level court in NSW. A lawyer can be of great assistance in negotiating with the police or prosecution, to give your case a better chance of proceeding in the Local Court.

However, some serious offences are “strictly indictable”, meaning that they are considered too serious to be dealt with in the Local Court. Strictly indictable charges can only be dealt with in the Supreme or District Court.

Deciding how you will plead is the most important decision you will make. Pleading guilty means that you accept responsibility for the offence charged, and a penalty will be imposed by a court, which reflects the seriousness of the offence and your personal circumstances. Once you plead guilty it is very difficult to retract. If you plead not guilty, there will be a hearing in court, where a magistrate, judge or jury will determine your guilt or innocence.

Remember that there is a presumption of innocence, so if you believe you did not commit the crime, or that the charge is excessive, a “not guilty” plea will mean that the prosecution has to work to prove your guilt. It is extremely important to seek legal advice before you plead, as you may not be aware that a lesser charge is more appropriate for the offence you committed, or that there is a defence you can offer for committing the offence.

An early plea of guilty may have advantages, such as:

  • You receive a lesser sentence
  • You don’t have to endure court for so long and the matter is dealt with quickly
  • You may save money in legal costs

But it may also mean that:

  • You cannot appeal the conviction
  • You will pass up the chance of being acquitted
  • You end up with a criminal record

If you plead not guilty to a criminal charge, and your guilt or innocence is to be determined in the District Court or Supreme Court, then a trial will be held, typically before a judge and jury. If any of the evidence is in dispute, pre-trial argument will usually be heard by the judge before the jury is selected. Once a jury is selected, lawyers for the prosecution and defence will have an opportunity to introduce the case. After that, the prosecution must present its evidence.

In our criminal justice system, it is a fundamental principle that the accuser must prove its case. In other words, you are not guilty of any offence unless and until the prosecution presents evidence which is sufficient to prove the offence, beyond any reasonable doubt.

A defendant is not obliged to present any evidence to answer a criminal charge against himself or herself. However, in practice, if a defence is available to you, then evidence of this defence would then be presented, on your behalf, to strengthen the case for acquittal.

Once the prosecution and defence have presented their evidence, the jury is asked to “deliberate” (discuss the case in private) and reach a verdict. If you are found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment you can appeal. It is rare for bail to be granted once you have received a prison sentence (this only happens in exceptional circumstances.)

Our experts

Latest from Stacks

divorce quickly, divorce, separation, de facto, marriage, married, Family Court, divorce order, property settlement, mediation, lawyer, marriage breakdown
10 Apr 2024
One year of separation required before applying for divorce “I want to get a divorce as quickly as possible. What can I do to speed things up?” Many people want to get ...
Read the full story
electric scooter, e-scooter, rent, hire, trial, public road, cycleway, footpath, penalty, helmet, insurance, personal injury, public liability.
04 Apr 2024
The electric scooter is growing in popularity in Europe as a means of urban transport, and there has been pressure in Australia to allow them to be used on cycleways and selected ...
Read the full story
payment redirection, scam, Scamwatch, scammer, hacker, email, email scam, business email compromise, payment, money
03 Apr 2024
According to the latest figures from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, in 2022 Australians lost more than $3 billion to scammers, including losses due to payment ...
Read the full story

Why Stacks Law Firm

What makes Stacks different and why you should choose us.

Stacks is the steady hand you can trust, the lawyers you know. The ones who care about where you’re from, what you’re going through and who treat you like a person, not just another case.

With the attention of one lawyer, backed by the expertise of many, we’re the only legal provider in Australia that gives businesses and everyday people access to expert legal services through a network of reputable local offices.

Legal challenges can feel confusing, even intimidating, but we know what you’re going through, we know the legal terrain, we view your case individually, and we can offer the care, reassurance and expertise to guide you every step of the way.

call us now


No hidden fees
We’ll always be honest and upfront. We’ll look you straight in the eye and agree on a plan before moving forward.

Deep expertise
We know the ropes and our professionals have expertise specific to every legal situation—many are Accredited Specialists.

Practical advice not legalese
We speak clearly and directly, so you understand our advice and can make decisions with confidence.

Network of local offices
We’re local to wherever you are, and our offices are owned and operated by friendly, local professionals, proud of their communities.

Real client care
We genuinely care about our clients. It’s the core of who we are and has been since the first practice was opened by ER Stack on the NSW Mid-North Coast in 1931.

Progressive practise
We make the process easy for you with the latest tech to keep services cost effective—and you in control.



We’ll always be honest and upfront. We’ll look you straight in the eye and agree on a plan before moving forward.
We know the ropes and our professionals have expertise specific to every legal situation—many are Accredited Specialists.
We speak clearly and directly, so you understand our advice and can make decisions with confidence.
We’re local to wherever you are, and our offices are owned and operated by friendly, local professionals, proud of their communities.
We genuinely care about our clients. It’s the core of who we are and has been since the first practice was opened by ER Stack on the NSW Mid-North Coast in 1931.
We make the process easy for you with the latest tech to keep services cost effective—and you in control.

WE’RE HERE TO HELP

Complete the form to contact us today

We’re here to listen to your story anytime. We can help you understand how things work, give you confidence and guide you through your options. We’ll be honest and upfront, agreeing on what you need and how much it will cost. Your enquiry is completely confidential.

chat button

Fill out this form and one of our local law professionals will be in contact

By submitting this form you agree to the terms of our Privacy policy