Home Invasion, Burglary and Theft cases are all property offences. These crimes are dealt with in the District Court. The severity of these crimes increases where there are aggravating circumstances. If charged with one of these offences you must attend court and hiring a lawyer to represent you is strongly recommended.
Types of Offences
Burglary and Home Invasion are covered by a number of offences in New South Wales. The most common is known as "break, enter and steal". This means to break into a house or other dwelling (or enter without breaking).
Aggravating circumstances include that the alleged offender is armed with a weapon, uses violence on a person or deprives a person of his or her liberty. There are special types of offences where a person breaks into a house with the intent to commit murder or grievous bodily harm.
Theft in NSW is covered by the offence of larceny. This means to take away from the owner something with intent to permanently deprive the owner of the object. The property stolen can be anything as long as it is a physical entity. An intangible thing cannot be the subject of larceny in New South Wales, though may be the subject of another offence.
The court process begins when you are sent a court attendance notice after release on bail. In the more serious cases you will be refused bail and be remanded in custody before your court appearance. You must then attend court to answer the charge made against you.
Criminal cases always begin in the Local Court and will be referred to the District Court if serious enough. They are first put before a committal hearing to decide whether there is enough evidence to make a case. If there is enough evidence an indictment will be prepared, which is a document listing the charges made against you. This will then be sent to the District Court. At this stage you must decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty. Seeking legal advice will help you make the best decision. If you plead guilty your case will be sent to the District Court for sentencing. If you plead not guilty it will be sent for trial.
Criminal trials in the District Court are heard before a Judge and a Jury. In some cases a Judge will hear the case alone, but this must be agreed upon by the Prosecutor and the accused. A Jury is a group comprised of members of the community who listen to all the evidence in a case and decide the outcome.
If a court finds you guilty, a number of possible punishments follow. The punishment will depend on the seriousness of the offence, your previous criminal record and various other factors. The Judge will decide on the sentence taking into account these factors.
For more serious offences, imprisonment or suspended sentences are the most common. The Judge will decide the most appropriate sentence in the circumstances from a range of sentences set down by the law. The least serious burglary offence carries a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment. For larceny the sentence set by the law is imprisonment for up to 5 years. These are the upper limits which can be imposed by the court.
Why should I hire a lawyer?
If charged with a burglary/theft/home invasion crime you can choose to represent yourself or hire a lawyer to represent you. Arguing your own case can be difficult. It is important to put your best case forward in a criminal case as imprisonment is a potential outcome.
Hiring a lawyer with experience and expertise in the area will increase the chances of a successful outcome. A lawyer understands the court processes, the law and importantly your needs as a client. The process will be easier when the services of a lawyer are engaged.