If you’ve been charged with a criminal offence and you’re going to the Magistrates Court, there’s usually a lawyer at the court who may be able to help you on your court date. This lawyer is called the criminal law duty lawyer (duty lawyer).
The duty lawyer can usually give you legal advice and represent you in court as your lawyer if you want to:
You can check whether a duty a lawyer will be available on your court date by checking the duty lawyer service status
The duty lawyer can only help you on your court date. If you need help before or after your court date, contact Legal Aid Queensland or get a private lawyer.
What is a duty lawyer?
A duty lawyer is a free lawyer who may be able to give you legal advice or help with your criminal law matter on your court date. If you’ve been charged with a criminal offence and you’re going to the Magistrates Court, they may be able to help.
There is a duty lawyer available at most Magistrates Courts in Queensland. You can check if they’re available on your court date by checking the duty lawyer service status.
On your court date, you should arrive early to the court and ask to see the duty lawyer. If you’re being held in the watch-house, you can ask to see the duty lawyer before you’re taken into the courtroom.
The duty lawyer can only help you on the day you have to go to court. They can’t help you with a case that isn’t listed in the court on that day—for example, if your court date is on Tuesday, you can’t get help from the duty lawyer before Tuesday.
How can the duty lawyer help?
The duty lawyer can usually give you legal advice and represent you in court if you need help with:
They can also help you get a copy of the police summary of why you were charged and what allegedly happened. This is called a QP9.
The duty lawyer may also be able to help you by holding a case conference with the prosecutor on your court date. This is a discussion to try and negotiate a better solution for everyone. For example, the prosecutor may agree to drop some charges, or they may be able to work out some other agreement that will help resolve your matter quickly.
The duty lawyer won’t help you if you’re going to court for:
If your matter is complicated or you may be facing a serious penalty, the duty lawyer might suggest delaying your matter so you can get more legal advice.
The duty lawyer only acts for you on your court date. If you need more help or advice you’ll need to:
If you’re not sure if the duty lawyer can help, you should always ask.
Do I need legal advice?
You may need legal advice if you:
- have been charged with an offence and are going to court
- have seen the duty lawyer and they’ve delayed your case until a later date (so you can get further advice or apply for legal aid) are going to court for something the duty lawyer can’t help with.
How to get legal advice
We may give advice if you’ve been charged with an offence and you're going to court.
The following organisations may be able to give you legal help or advice.
Community legal centres may give free legal advice and information on criminal law. Contact them to find out if they can help.
Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation on criminal law matters.
If you're charged with an offence, you should ask police prosecutions for a copy of your Queensland Police form 9 (QP9)—this is a written summary of the police version of why you were charged and what happened. You should get your QP9 before getting legal advice. You can get your QP9 from the police prosecutor on your first court date (the duty lawyer may be able to help you). If you can't collect it on your first court date, you'll need to apply to police prosecutions for a copy. You'll need to make a written request and show photo ID.
Who else can help?
These organisations may also be able to help. They don't give legal advice.
Queensland Courts has information about the courts, including the:
- Supreme Court
- Court of Appeal
- District Court
- Magistrates Court
- Coroners Court
- Childrens Court of Queensland
- Land Court.