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How are Sentences Imposed in South Australia?

If you might be sentenced for an offence, you need to understand how the court will determine that sentence.

If you pay an expiation fee after receiving an expiation notice in South Australia, you will not be convicted or sentenced. If you are charged with an offence and must go to court, however, a judge will sentence you if you plead guilty or are found guilty after a trial.

This article will explain how sentencing works in South Australia. If you are facing the possibility of a criminal sentence, you are likely to achieve a better outcome if you are represented by a lawyer. A lawyer can tell the court about mitigating circumstances that justify a lenient sentence. If you do that yourself, it might sound like you are making excuses or not taking responsibility for your crime.

What will a Judge Consider if I am Sentenced?

When imposing a sentence, a judge will consider any of the following factors that are relevant to your case:

  • How the offence was committed, including aggravating or mitigating circumstances.
  • Whether other offences were committed at the same time or as part of an ongoing scheme.
  • The impact of the offence on the victim, including the extent of any injury or loss the victim experienced.
  • The offender’s attitude. Offenders who accept responsibility and express remorse generally receive more favourable sentences.
  • Whether the offender made reparation for the crime.
  • Whether the offender obstructed the investigation of the crime.
  • The offender’s criminal record, if any.
  • The offender’s rehabilitation, including treatment or counseling the offender received after the crime was committed.
  • Other factors bearing upon the offender’s character, including work history, age, disability, family responsibilities, and history of public service.
  • The impact of a sentence upon the offender’s dependents.
  • The ability of a sentence to deter the offender or others from committing similar crimes.
  • The degree of punishment that is appropriate for the offence.
  • The need to protect society.
  • Relevant sentencing guidelines, if any exist.

Guilty Pleas

A recent law in South Australia provides for a reduced sentence if a guilty plea is entered early. Some sentences can be reduced by as much as 40 percent.

You should only plead guilty, however, if you are guilty. Remember that by pleading guilty you are giving up your chance to be found not guilty after a trial. You should never plead guilty until you discuss all the facts of your case with a lawyer. Once you are fully informed, you can decide whether it makes sense to enter an early guilty plea in order to maximize your opportunity to receive a reduced sentence.

Sentencing Hearing

If you are sentenced, the court will hold a sentencing hearing. If facts about your involvement in the crime are disputed, a disputed fact hearing might be held before sentence is imposed. If the offence is serious, the court may delay sentencing so that an expert can prepare a presentence report that will help guide the court’s decision.

The prosecution and defence are both entitled to submit relevant information to the court for its consideration in choosing a sentence. If you are sentenced, your lawyer can advise you what you should or should not say to the court and can help you assemble submissions from character witnesses.

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