What is the complete definition of a hearing in court?

If you’re not familiar with the legal world, a lot of the terminology can be confusing and sometimes overwhelming. We have created a Business Kitz blog to break down what is a hearing in court and what that entails. This blog will help you gain a better understanding of the legal industry, help you in preparing for a hearing in court and what to expect.

So what is a court hearing?

A hearing is a session of determination of a charge before a magistrate. A committal hearing is the preliminary hearing, in front of a magistrate to determine whether a serious charge should be upgraded to the higher court. When a contested matter does go to a high court for a trial, it is then commonly heard before both a judge and a jury. In some states, there is also the option available to choose to only be heard in front of only a judge and no jury. A judge-only trial would be the recommended option if there is a significant amount of prejudice surrounding the case.

What is the process of a hearing in court?

The procedures for hearings, committals and trials are all quite similar. A hearing before a magistrate is regularly called a summary hearing as the outcome is announced straight away or ‘summarily’. For a hearing, you may not receive any warning of the witnesses or evidence that is going to be present. However, you are entitled to know in advance a statement of alleged ‘facts’ you are required to answer. With this information you can consider which parts of the prosecution’s case you should investigate, as well as the statement of ‘facts’ you are receiving, you are also entitled to ask for an adjournment to allow you time to investigate these ‘facts’. 

You are also able to ask for a copy of the prosecution’s ‘brief’ at your earliest convenience, even if it is not complete. This is a great way to gain further information that may help your case preparation. 

If you have been charged with another person or multiple people, the prosecution may request and apply that the matter be heard together in the form of a joint hearing. If you disagree with this, you do have the right to object, but must argue that if the charges would be heard jointly, it would generate unfair prejudice against the chances of a fair hearing for one of the defendants. 

It is extremely difficult for a judge to grant an adjournment once a hearing date has been set. At a previously mentioned date, the magistrate will request both sides to submit an estimate on how long the matter may take. Extra hours and days will be set aside in the court lists. Once this has been completed magistrates are very unwilling to alter the set hearing time unless for very serious and valid reasons.

The main issue involved in a criminal trial is whether the prosecution can prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, instead of proving their innocence. In Australia, the law states that a person is proven innocent until proven guilty and therefore the law presumes a person, before, during and after acquittal to be innocent. If you have any further questions or would like to know more about trials, the New South Wales State Library has some great resources.

Legal advice

Although legal terminology can be confusing, it’s important to have a sound understanding if you are entering the legal industry or if you are participating in a hearing in court. If you need any assistance or want further information, contact Legal Kitz! We offer a FREE 30-minute consultation for all your legal needs. Click here to book now.

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