Facing prosecution for an offence in the criminal law system is a complex and stressful experience. Many decisions have to be made.
The Crimes Act 1961 (as amended) is the primary source of criminal offences in New Zealand. Although, other statutory offences are also dealt with within the "criminal justice" system under the Criminal Procedure Act 2011 ("the CPA") .
The basic "stream" for a criminal matter in Court is (1) first appearance; (2) second appearance (if required); (3) case review hearing (if required); (4) trial (if required); and (5) sentencing (on a finding of guilt or the entry of a "guilty" plea.
The Court can give a sentencing indication at the case review hearing, if one is requested.
There are four categories of offence and two types of trial under the CPA:
The defendant is usually required to plead (either "guilty" or "not guilty") on or before the second appearance. A plea of "not guilty" is entered, if the defendant does not enter a plea at the second appearance. The defendant can change a "not guilty" plea to a "guilty" plea at any time.
Sentencing is the next stage, which takes place separately after a plea or finding of guilt. "Pleas in mitigation" are the focus of sentencing for the defendant - explaining to the Court the factors which should lead to an appropriate sentence given the priorities of the Court and the Sentencing Act 2002.
There is a hierarchy of sentencing types the Court can impose, including in combination, from a fine to community based sentences to imprisonment.
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