Communities and Justice

Frequently asked questions about going to court

When must you go to court?

The court attendance notice or other document will provide the name of the court, the location and the date and time to attend.

Not sure when to attend? Each court publishes a daily list of the cases due to be heard. You can check the online court list if your case is in the Supreme, District or Local Court. Please note, online court lists are not available for Children’s Court proceedings.  

If your case is being held elsewhere, check the court lists published by each court or tribunal.

For jury service information check tomorrow's jury service lists.

Must you attend court personally?

Defendants and witnesses need to attend court in person, unless they have been formally excused.

Usually only a lawyer can represent a defendant at court or you can represent yourself. As a defendant you need to attend court even if you have a lawyer representing you.

However, there are some exceptions:

Criminal matters

If you are on bail, you must attend court in person. If you do not attend (and you were not excused from attending), the court can issue a warrant for your arrest.

If you are attending the Local Court for a penalty notice offence you can ask the court to hear the case in your absence by filing a written notice of plea. For more information see the Local Court website.

Civil matters

If you cannot attend civil proceedings in the Local Court you can make an application to appear by telephone in some instances. Making the application does not mean it is automatically granted. Your application to attend by telephone will be considered by a judicial officer.

You will need to check prior to the day whether the application has been granted. If the application is not granted, you must attend or orders can be made in your absence.

If you are a party directly involved in a case it is in your interest to be at court while hearings are held.

What if you cannot attend the court hearing?

If you cannot attend court, contact the court as soon as possible to discuss options. If you do not attend court a warrant may be issued for your arrest.

If you are sick on the day of the hearing, telephone the court to advise them you cannot come. You will be asked to provide a medical certificate and the judicial officer will be informed.

However, there is no guarantee that the matter will be given another date. The judicial officer may decide to hear the case in your absence or could issue a warrant for your arrest.

You will need to contact the court at the end of the day to check what the court decision was. 

Can a friend or family member represent you at court?

You can bring a friend or family member to court as your support person. However, if you want someone other than a lawyer to speak on your behalf you will have to ask the judicial officer.

Knowing the next step in your case

When you appear in court you need to know what your next steps are. For example, in criminal matters the judicial officer will ask you whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty. In civil matters, you will need to know what orders you are asking the court to make.

Find out more about pleas in criminal proceedings.

You should do your research and seek legal advice well before you go to court.

See Where to get legal information and advice. 

Need to see a duty lawyer at the court?

If you do not have your own lawyer at a court or tribunal, there may be a duty lawyer available at the Local Court or other courts and tribunals. See Legal Aid to find out where duty lawyers are available. 

If you are a child and your case is being dealt with in the Children’s Court you can get legal advice and representation at court for free. See the Children's Court website for more information. 

Asking for an adjournment

If you are a defendant and are still unsure about how to plead on the first date at court, you can ask the court to set another date so you can get legal advice before you enter a plea. This is called asking for an adjournment.

If the judicial officer agrees, your case will be given another date for you to attend. If you are on bail, your bail will be continued until the next date.

Last updated:

03 Dec 2023

Was this content useful?
We will use your rating to help improve the site.
Please don't include personal or financial information here
Please don't include personal or financial information here
Top Return to top of page Top