Criminal Law Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. I have to go to court for a criminal case – will I be able to get legal aid?

This depends on two things. First of all whether you are financially eligible. If you have disposable income or capital above a certain amount you may not be eligible for legal aid. Secondly it depends on how serious the case is. For very minor criminal offences you are unlikely to be granted legal aid unless there are other circumstances which would entitle you to get legal aid. We are able to give you a short appointment free of charge where we could advise as to your potential eligibility for legal. 

2. What if I make an application for legal aid and it is refused?

There is a process of appeal against a refusal for legal aid and again we would be able to advise as to how this process works.

3. If I can’t get legal aid how much would it cost?

This depends on how serious the case is and how long the case lasts. Again, in our preliminary meeting we could give you an estimate of the costs and in certain circumstances we may be able to agree a fixed fee and agree payment terms if appropriate.

4. Which court will deal with my case?

This depends on how serious the offence is. Certain minor offences can only be heard in the Magistrates and some very serious cases can only be heard in the Crown Court. On some cases you would have a choice as to whether you wished to be dealt with in the Crown Court or the Magistrates Court and we can advise you about this.

5. Who will represent me at court?

If your case is dealt with in the Magistrates Court then one of our solicitors will deal with your case. However if the case is heard at the Crown Court then we would instruct a barrister on your behalf. In that situation the preparation of your case would still be dealt with by one of our solicitors together with the support staff.

6. How long will my case last?

This depends on whether you plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty in the Magistrates Court then the case could take up to 3 months to conclude. If you were to plead not guilty and the case was tried in the Crown Court this could take in excess of 6 months to conclude. Guilty pleas are generally concluded in a matter of weeks.

7. If I am found not guilty and I do not have legal aid will I get my legal costs refunded?

If you are found not guilty we would be able to apply for your costs to be refunded but it may be that you would not receive a full refund of the costs. This would be explained to you in more detail should this occur.

8. If I get a fine will I have to pay it all at once or can I be given time to pay?

Generally the court would allow you to pay any fines or costs awarded against you by instalments depending on your disposable income.

9. If I plead not guilty who will decide whether I am guilty or not?

In the Magistrates Court your case is likely to be decided by three Magistrates who hear all of the evidence both against you and on your behalf. In the Crown Court questions of facts are decided by a Jury of ordinary, unqualified people.

10. I have been summoned to attend court. Do I have to attend or can I plead guilty by letter?

In some minor cases and in particular cases involving motoring offences you can plead guilty by letter as long as you supply sufficient information particularly in relation to your finances for the court to deal with the case. In most other cases however you would have to attend court in person.

11. What sentence will I get?

For criminal offences the court has a whole range of possible sentences which they could impose. For the most serious offences it is possible that it could be a sentence of imprisonment. However for the majority of offences they are generally dealt with by a financial penalty or potentially a punishment within the community such as community service. Your solicitor would be able to advise you with more certainty when he is in possession of the facts of your particular case.

12. I have been told I must attend court for 10:00am – will I be dealt with at 10:00am?

All defendants are generally listed for 10:00am or 2:00pm. This does not mean however that your case will be dealt with at that time. In the worst case you may have to wait several hours before your case is dealt with.