When speaking to a client for the first time about their charges, there are often a few questions nearly all clients ask. The most common one is usually ‘what am I looking at?’ Even for clients who intend to plead not guilty to their charges, most clients want to know what the outcome is likely to be if they are found guilty.
Penalties can range from a nominal fine, community orders, or in some circumstances immediate imprisonment. In determining what sort of punishment a client can expect to receive if convicted, there are many different variables to consider. Some of these are listed below:
- The type of offence they have been charged with;
- The maximum and minimum penalties prescribed by law for that charge;
- The client’s personal circumstances;
- Their criminal record (or lack thereof); and
- The circumstances surrounding the offence.
Depending on the circumstances of each matter, two people charged with the same offence can receive very different outcomes. An example of this is shown below:
Scenario 1: Woman A sees her ex-partner on a date playing minigolf with Woman A’s sister. Woman A approaches her ex-partner and strikes him with a golf club forcefully to the head, causing extensive bruising to his face, arms and back. The act was witnessed by multiple people, including small children. Woman A has an extensive criminal record for like-offending and has previously been sentenced to community-based disposition for previous assaults.
Scenario 2: Woman B also sees her ex-partner on a date playing minigolf with her sister. Woman B approaches her ex-partner and says she is upset that he is now dating her sister. Woman B is crying, whilst her ex-partner and sister laugh at her. Woman B then strikes her ex-partner once and engages in a scuffle, causing scratches and a bruise on her ex-partner’s arm. The incident lasted a few seconds. Woman B has no criminal history, has stable employment and provides for her two young children as a single parent.
Both Woman A and Woman B could be charged with the same offence of assault occasioning bodily harm, however, Woman A would likely be sentenced much more severely given the overall seriousness of the offending.
Understanding the full picture of a criminal matter is essential to giving advice about the penalty someone can expect to receive. These details will determine whether or not a fine or a community order is likely to be imposed (which would be the case for Woman B), or whether a suspended or immediate term of imprisonment is the likely outcome (as might be the case for Woman A).
To speak to a lawyer to discuss the details of a criminal matter you may be facing, please contact us at Butlers Lawyers on (08) 9386 5200.