There are two types of caution. A caution and a conditional caution.
What is a simple police caution?
These are issued by the police at the police station. You do not have to go to court to get a caution; in fact the aim of the caution is to avoid you going to court….
Grounds for police arrest
The police can arrest you if they have a warrant for your arrest. They can also arrest you without a warrant in certain situations; for example,
- If they catch you actually committing certain offences.
- If they have reasonable grounds to suspect you have committed certain offences.
- If they have reasonable grounds to suspect you are about to commit certain offences.
It is important to know that if you are approached by police, you DO NOT have to stop or answer any questions. If you don’t and there’s no other reason to suspect you, then this alone can’t be used as a reason to search you. A search is not the same as being arrested.
What gives the police the right to search me?
In most cases, an officer must have reasonable grounds to suspect that you are in possession of a prohibited item, such as drugs, weapons or stolen goods.
Your behaviour for example could be taken as a sign that you are in possession of a prohibited item. An officer must not base their suspicion on your race, colour, age or the way you dress.
This is a summary for you of where your criminal case will be dealt with, general court procedure and is a general outline as to what is likely to happen at each hearing. This factsheet relates to those who are 18 or over. If you are 17 or under, please see our separate factsheet for the Youth Court.
Where will my first court hearing be?
In every case your first court hearing will take place at the Magistrates’ Court local to where your offence was committed. What happens then depends on whether it is a summary only offence, an either way offence or an indictable only offence. Depending on what offence/s you have been charged with your case will either stay in the Magistrates’ Court or be committed or sent to the Crown Court for trial or sentence.
Representation at the police station is free of charge. We will represent you under the ‘free’ legal aid scheme which entitles you to free advice and assistance whilst you are at the police station. This free advice is not means tested. If your case does not finish at the initial police station attendance, we will continue to provide support and advice to you throughout the police investigation which includes liaising with the police on your behalf to ascertain the next course of action with your case and to arrange and rearrange if necessary future attendances at the police station.
What is credit for a guilty plea?
Credit for a guilty plea basically means that if you plead guilty at any stage prior to the trial commencing, in most cases, you should be entitled to a reduction in sentence for your guilty plea. The amount of reduction will depend upon at what stage you entered your guilty plea.
If you plead guilty at the very first opportunity you will be entitled to a one third reduction to sentence. In most cases, the court will consider the first court hearing to be the first opportunity for you to enter your plea.
Someone who gives evidence on your behalf.
What are the different types of witnesses?
There are four main types of defence witnesses:
- Witness of fact
- Alibi witness
- Character witness
- Expert witness
In general terms the preparation required for your criminal case is the same regardless of whether your trial is in the Magistrates’ Court or the Crown Court. The difference is usually in the time-scale for service of various documents either by you or by the prosecution. The most important thing that you can do to help your case is to maintain contact with your legal team and provide them with as much information as possible. This will help to identify what your defence is and what needs to be done in order to best prepare it for trial.
In the Crown Court, you can be represented by either a solicitor advocate or by a barrister. Remember, this is your choice. It is important that you have confidence in the person who is representing you and whether it is a solicitor advocate or a barrister, that they have sufficient experience to represent you. For the purpose of this fact-sheet we will refer only to a barrister to avoid repetition.
What is the Defence case?
You will be represented either by a barrister or a crown court advocate. For the purpose of this factsheet, we will refer only to a barrister to avoid repetition.
This is your case and your opportunity to present your case to the jury. Remember, you do not have to prove you are innocent – the prosecution must prove that you are guilty.
What happens at the end of the defence case?
After all of the evidence has been heard the prosecutor will make a closing speech to the jury.
Your crown court advocate will then make a closing speech and will address the jury directly about why it is that you say the prosecution have not proved the case against you.
What happens when I arrive?
- A list of the property you have with you will be made. You will be allowed to keep some property, the rest will be stored and given to you when you leave.
- You will have a shower and be given your prison number. You will also see a member of the healthcare team for an assessment.
- Soon after your arrival you should have an interview with a prison officer to make sure you know who you can turn to for advice and support.
- You will have an induction so you know how prison life works and what your responsibilities are.
Trial at a Magistrates’ Court
This factsheet is only intended as a guide as to what is likely to happen at your trial. Criminal trials are all unique and it would be impossible to advise you about everything that could happen in your case as it is often dependent on the facts of your individual case. We hope however that you find this useful as an overview of trial procedure. If you have pleaded not guilty to a criminal offence we would always recommend that you seek legal advice.
Please note that if your trial is in the Magistrates’ Court you can be represented by a legal executive (if they have obtained criminal advocacy rights of audience), a solicitor or an independent barrister. For the purpose of this fact-sheet we will refer only to a solicitor to avoid repetition.
What is the legal limit?
- 80mg of alcohol in 100mg of blood
- 107mg of alcohol in 100mg of urine
- 35mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath
When can the police ask for a breath test?
An officer in uniform can ask you to give a breath test if s/he:
In certain cases where the magistrates find special reasons or exceptional hardship.
What is Special Reasons?
Some motoring offences such as drink driving carry an obligatory disqualification. This means that unless there are special reasons you will receive a driving ban.
When can the police ask for a specimen?
An officer in uniform can ask you to give a breath test or mouth swab if s/he:
- Has reasonable grounds to suspect that you have or are committing a road traffic offence.
- Has reasonable ground to suspect that whilst either driving, attempting to drive or whilst in charge of the vehicle you have consumed alcohol or illegal drugs.