Retaining an expert criminal lawyer early can maximise your chances of successfully defending a criminal charge. We can provide you with advice during the investigation and help you deal with the police and gather evidence for your defence.

At Mantzoros & Partners we take pride in our attention to detail and our ability to identify and exploit weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against our clients. Our knowledgable criminal lawyers will not be intimidated by courts or prosecutors and will fight to see that you get the best result.

Mantzoros & Partners Lawyers offer a first free interview of half an hour to provide you with advice relevant to your specific criminal law query. Call us now on 08 8396 3143 or use the chat option to arrange your free consultation.

How Much Does a Lawyer Cost

At Mantzoros & Partners we are committed to providing high quality, affordable legal assistance.

It can be difficult to estimate legal fees in criminal defence matters, largely because it is difficult to know when and how the charges will resolve.

For example, pleading guilty immediately will cost less in legal fees than trying to negotiate a plea deal or defending the matter at trial. Whilst the cost of this course of action may be less in terms of money spent, it may result in a larger sentence.

At Mantzoros & Partners we offer a fixed fee service for negotiating guilty pleas and attending at sentencing hearings in the Adelaide Metropolitan area.

Contact our offices on 08 8396 3143 to arrange a free no obligation first interview.

Speaking With The Police

We have all heard of the “right to silence”, but what exactly does that mean?

A police officer must, as soon as reasonably practicable following your arrest, warn you that anything you say may be taken down and used in evidence. You also have the right to have a solicitor, a relative or a friend present during any interrogation or investigation while you remain in police custody.

You have a right to not answer any questions except when required to do so under the Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA) or any other Act). The main exceptions to your right to silence are providing the police with your name and accurate details. It is an offence to refuse to provide these details or to provide false or misleading details.

But, should you say anything else to the police? Our advice is always no. If you have been arrested, charged or under investigation for an offence, then you should never provide a statement to police without first obtaining legal advice.

While some people may tell you that asking for a lawyer or not answering questions will make you look guilty, there are very good reasons for not providing a statement to the police. They include:

  1. Once you provide a statement, it is generally always available for police to use against you.
  2. You may inadvertently implicate yourself or someone else.
  3. You may be nervous and anxious during the interview, which may come across as guilty or hiding something.
  4. The police and prosecution will not hesitate to use any mistakes you make in your statement against you.
  5. If you do eventually go to trial and give evidence, the evidence you give in court will likely be very different to the statement you gave police. This is natural and a result of your memory, perception and the passage of time. However, it will not stop the prosecution from referring back to your original statement and calling you a liar in open court.
  6. You may not know everything that the police know. It is a very bad idea to offer your version of events without knowing exactly what the police already know.

Always remember that police generally only want to interview you because they think you are guilty. No matter how nice, friendly or reasonable they seem their main goal is to obtain the evidence that will prove you guilty of the offence. The police generally see an interview with you as a chance to obtain a confession or some other damaging evidence.

Talking to the police will almost always do more harm than good. Many people have been convicted of offences simply because they spoke to police and handed them the evidence they needed.

Before speaking to the police, contact our offices on 08 8396 3143 to arrange a free no obligation first interview.

Helping Your Case

There are many things you can do hurt your case, but there are also many things you can do to help it. Over the years we have noticed that the following things can help minimise a sentence or even have charges reduced or dropped:

  1. Payment of legal fees early. Like most lawyers, we cannot act or finalise your matter until our anticipated legal fees are paid into trust. Further, we may be limited as to what we can do to help your case until our fees and disbursements are met. For example, if you instructed us that you were under the influence of medication at the time of offending and had no idea what you were doing; then we would have to obtain expert evidence into the effects of the medication. Such a report can range from $1,100.00 to $5,000.00. You would need to pay for this report before we could proceed with your defence.
  2. Provide letters of reference from your employer or previous employer confirming your value to them.
  3. Provide letters of reference from any volunteer, charity, professional or sporting groups that you are a part of.
  4. Provide a letter from your doctor confirming any conditions which affect you.
  5. If you have been charged with drug or drug related offences (or have a known history of substance abuse with the police and courts) then ask your doctor to conduct a urine drug test analysis and obtain a copy of the report.
  6. In certain circumstances offer an apology and/or restitution or compensation (if there is property damage involved). It is important to note that any contact with the victim should be made through your lawyer (if you have one) and the prosecution. DO NOT approach the victim yourself or have anyone approach them on your behalf.
  7. Treat the matter with respect and show it to the Court and prosecution.
  8. Comply with any bail obligations you are subject to.

Contact our offices on 08 8396 3143 to arrange a free no obligation first interview.

Early Guilty Pleas

In 2013 the South Australian government introduced new laws to entice people charged with criminal offences to plead guilty at an early stage. Whilst these laws have come under some criticism (which will be discussed later) they do provide an incentive to plead guilty at an early stage.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence and:

  1. Plead guilty within the first four (4) weeks of your first appearance in court then the Magistrate or Judge sentencing you can apply a discount of up to 40% off the sentence that they were initially going to impose; or
  2. Plead guilty after the first four (4) weeks, but at least four (4) weeks before the matter has been set down for trial, then the Magistrate or Judge can apply a discount of up to 30% off the sentence that they were initially going to impose; or
  3. Plead guilty within four (4) weeks of the trial commencing, but can satisfy the Court that you could not have plead guilty at an earlier stage, then the Magistrate or Judge can apply a discount of up to 30% off the sentence they were initially going to impose;
  4. Plead guilty on the first day of trial, then the Judge or Justice (District or Supreme Court) can apply a discount of up to 20% off of the sentence they were initially going to impose;
  5. Plead guilty at any other time in the Magistrates Court, the Magistrate; if they find there is good reason to, may apply a discount of up to 10% off the sentence they were initially going to impose.

An astute shopper may have noticed that all of the available discounts are ‘up to’ a percentage off. This means that the sentencing Magistrate, Judge or Justice has full discretion as to the discount they apply. In some cases, the discount may be zero.

This change to sentencing law has been criticised because of the strict timelines it imposes. It can be extremely difficult to obtain all of the relevant information and evidence from the police and get competent legal advice on the prospects of a successful defence within four weeks. The four week period also curtails any chance of entering into meaningful negotiations with the prosecution, which otherwise might lead to a withdrawal or reduction of charges.

Notwithstanding the above, it is important for anyone charged with an offence to consider all of their options, which includes pleading guilty at an early time. Contact Mantzoros & Partners Lawyers  on 8396 3143 to arrange a no obligation free 30 minute first interview with one of our expert criminal lawyers.

Going to Court

Criminal Court

Being charged with a criminal offence and having to front up to court can be a daunting process. If you choose Mantzoros & Partners to act for you we will be right by your side to make the process easier and do our very best to explain the process to you along the way.

The Process

You might expect that your matter will be dealt with on the first occasion. You will go into court, tell the Magistrate how it is all a big mistake, everyone will understand and that will take care of it. Unfortunately, unless you plead guilty on the first occasion (which generally is not recommended) your matter will not be resolved on the first hearing date.

We recommend that on the first hearing date a copy of all of the evidence (as may be available at that time) against you is obtained so that you can consider it. The court hearing will be adjourned for approximately four weeks, during which time you can consider the evidence against you and (if applicable) negotiate with the prosecution. If negotiations are unsuccessful and you wish to defend the charges, then a pre-trial conference is scheduled within the court.

A pre-trial conference is similar to a negotiation or mediation with a Magistrate involved. The parties will point out weaknesses in each other’s cases and try to reach a compromise on any possible level. If a deal cannot be done, then the matter is listed for trial. At trial both the prosecution and defence will present their evidence and a Magistrate, Judge or Jury will determine if you are guilty of the charged offence.

It should be noted that Major Indicatable Charges have additional procedural steps before the matter can be listed for trial.

What Should I Wear?

You should dress appropriately for your court date. More than one person has been ejected from the court room for dressing inappropriately.

Work clothes (if clean and neat) are acceptable and have the added bonus of reminding the court that you are gainfully employed and a productive member of society. If you do not have work clothes, or they are inappropriate for court then we suggest you wear clean, neat semi-formal clothes. Whether it is a simple or complex matter, it is important to dress appropriately for court.

That doesn’t mean that you have to wear a suit and tie. Nonetheless, there is definitely a difference between a pair of slacks with a button-up shirt compared to thongs, shorts and tank tops. You want to present the best image you can to the court and show the court that you are taking the proceedings seriously.

Do I Have To Say Anything?

You have the general right to silence both to police and in Court. Obviously, if you have not hired a lawyer, you will have to speak to the Magistrate and explain what you want to do (ie plead guilty or not guilty, request an adjournment, etc.). If you have hired a lawyer, then it is their job to put you case to the Court. This means that they will generally do all of the talking and there is no need for you to make any other comments. Making any interjections or comments during the proceedings is frowned upon and may result in further charges of Contempt of Court.

You will however be required to speak if you are pleading guilty. You will be directly asked how you are pleading and you should respond simply by saying, “guilty”. There may also be opportunities for you to speak if you plead not guilty and you give evidence at trial.

Contact our offices on 08 8396 3143 to arrange a free no obligation first interview.

What is a Conviction

Being charged with an offence and going to court to defend yourself can be an incredibly difficult and daunting process. In a sense, it challenges the basic fight or flight instinct as you are faced with either pleading guilty to the charges or fighting them.

If you plead guilty, or fight the charges and are found to be guilty, then you may be convicted of the charged offence. This means that the conviction is recorded on your criminal history.

Different offences carry different social stigmas; however any conviction can have an adverse impact on your life. You may face restrictions on employment, licensing and even international travel. For example, it is not uncommon for the United States to refuse entry to persons who have been convicted of drug or other serious offences.

There are; however, circumstances in which you can apply to the court to have your matter dealt with without recording a conviction. Under section 16 of the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act a Court can find a you guilty without recording a conviction if the court feels that you are unlikely to commit the offence again, the offence is trivial or unusual, you are of good character and you have a good criminal history. It should be noted that the court will likely record a conviction when you have a prior criminal record or if you are sentenced to imprisonment or in traffic matters.

When a conviction is recorded, it remains on your criminal history for a period of 10 years. After 10 years the conviction is considered spent and removed from your criminal history. However, the 10 year period recommences on the date of conviction of any other offence.

It should be noted that even if no conviction is recorded or a conviction is spent and removed after 10 years, it may still be possible for some searches to locate the conviction and/or recording of guilt without conviction when a person applies for certain licenses or employment. They may also be relevant in bail application hearings.

It is always important to seek legal advice before deciding how to deal with criminal charges. At Mantzoros & Partners Lawyers we can give you advice as to how a conviction may affect your employment and future prospects as well whether an application for your matter to be dealt with without recording a conviction will be successful. Contact our offices on 08 8396 3143 to arrange a free no obligation first interview.

 

Growing Cannabis Plants

There are a lot of urban legends surrounding drug offences, especially the growing of cannabis plants in South Australia. We often hear from our clients that it is okay to grow one or two plants, it’s only if you have more that you get in trouble… that is a myth.

Under the Controlled Substances Act 1984 it is an offence to ‘cultivate a controlled plant’. A controlled plant includes a cannabis plant. That means it is illegal to grow any cannabis plants.

There are three main offences which involve growing cannabis plants:

  1. cultivate a cannabis plant (one) using artificially enhanced cultivation;
  2. cultivate more than the number of prescribed plants (five plants); and
  3. cultivate a cannabis plant (one) intending to supply the plant, or supply or administer any product from the plant to another person.

The maximum penalty for these offences is a $2,000.00 fine and imprisonment for two years.

However, it is also an offence for the cultivation of not more than the prescribed number of cannabis plants (five plants). The maximum penalty is a fine of $1 000 and imprisonment for 6 months. A court sentencing for a simple cannabis offence (being one plant that is not grown by artificial means or for sale) must not impose a sentence of imprisonment in relation to that offence. Essentially this means that you can pay an expiation notice and have the matter dealt with without going to court.

We stress that this is a very brief and general outline of some of the offences contained in the Controlled Substances Act. If you are under investigation or have been charged with any offences related to the cultivation or sale of cannabis, we recommend that you seek urgent legal advice. Contact our offices on 08 8396 3143 to arrange a free no obligation first interview.