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Photograph of Ross Hyams.

The Ross Hyams perspective

Ross Hyams is an educator and law practitioner. Here, Ross presents his unique perspective on the essential things you need to know if you’ve been charged with a criminal offence.

Being charged with a criminal offence is a serious matter. It is very important that you reach out and get legal advice because criminal matters have consequences beyond the immediate risk of having to have to pay a fine or go to gaol.

Increasingly, people’s criminal records are being looked at by future employers, organisations and licensing or regulatory bodies as part of their assessment of a person’s suitability for a role or responsibility. Criminal records can potentially have a long-term and lasting impact on people’s lives, their ability to engage with the community and build a successful future.

Whilst we can not give you any general legal advice, we can provide you with these helpful suggestions that could make accessing legal help more easy for you.

We acknowledge that some countries might not have any free or accessible services available.

Criminal law essentials


Using a paid lawyer who specialises in criminal law is the best starting point for legal advice and representation with criminal matters. Find out in advance how they charge for their work before engaging a lawyer, so you don’t get any surprises later.

These are also known as public defenders, they are the main free government legal service for people with criminal law matters who need help, but can not afford to pay. This option is for people who are low income earners, however, it is best to seek advice well before a court date as these services are always busy.

Court duty lawyers

Some courts have free lawyers at them who you can see on the day of your court hearing for advice about your matter, and if you have to represent yourself and speak in court, can help point out what you can do to help your case.

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This article is from the free online course:

Law for Non-Lawyers: Introduction to Law

Monash University