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Hearings & trials

A hearing before a magistrate and a trial before a judge and jury (or a judge alone, if the accused person agrees) proceed in much the same way.

When the hearing begins, a formal plea may be taken, followed by an opening by the police or the state prosecutor. The prosecution evidence is then led, at the end of which you may argue that the prosecution has not produced sufficient evidence to make out the charge against you. If the prosecution has produced sufficient evidence, you may wish to (but need not) call defence evidence.

You may choose to give evidence, and thus be cross-examined by the prosecutor, or you may choose to "stand mute", which means that you say nothing and cannot be cross-examined. In Victoria, it is no longer possible to give "unsworn evidence", which meant that you could not be cross-examined on the evidence you gave. Remember, the defence does not have to prove a case, it just has to cut down or cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution case. (In practice this may mean substantial doubt.)

At the end of all the evidence, the prosecution addresses the court on their view of the evidence; then the defence lawyer or self-represented person does the same. In a hearing, the magistrate then gives a judgment. In a trial the judge sums up for the jury, which is then asked to decide whether the person is guilty or not guilty.