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What is a duty lawyer?

A duty lawyer is a free lawyer who may be able to give you legal advice or help with your criminal law matter on your Court date. If you have been charged with a criminal offence and you are going to the Magistrates Court, they may be able to help.

There is a duty lawyer available at most Magistrates Courts in Queensland. You can check if they are available on your Court date by checking the duty lawyer service status.

On your Court date, you should arrive early to the Court and ask to see the duty lawyer. If you are being held in the watch-house, you can ask to see the duty lawyer before you are taken into the Courtroom.

The duty lawyer can only help you on the day you have to go to Court. They cannot help you with a case that is not listed in the Court on that day—for example, if your Court date is on Tuesday, you cannot get help from the duty lawyer before Tuesday.


How can the duty lawyer help?

The duty lawyer can usually give you legal advice and represent you in Court if you need help with:

  • pleading guilty for less complex matters.
  • Criminal cases in the Magistrates Court (adjourn).
  • Bail.
  • changing your bail conditions.
  • bail breaches.
  • probation breaches.
  • Extradition proceedings.

They can also help you get a copy of the police summary of why you were charged and what allegedly happened. This is called a QP9.

The duty lawyer may also be able to help you by holding a case conference with the prosecutor on your Court date. This is a discussion to try and negotiate a better solution for everyone. For example, the prosecutor may agree to drop some charges, or they may be able to work out some other agreement that will help resolve your matter quickly.

The duty lawyer will not help you if you are going to Court for:

  • a first or second drink or drug driving offence and nothing else (unless it is likely you will go to jail).
  • Traffic offences (eg speeding or careless driving).
  • Domestic and family violence information (however, in some Courts we have a domestic violence duty lawyer).
  • a Committal Hearing or a trial.
  • Complex Sentence Hearings.

If your matter is complicated or you may be facing a serious penalty, the duty lawyer might suggest delaying your matter so you can get more legal advice.

The duty lawyer only acts for you on your Court date. If you need more help or advice you will need to:

  • contact Legal Aid Queensland or a community legal centre to get legal advice
  • apply for legal aid.
  • get a private lawyer.

If you are not sure if the duty lawyer can help, you should always ask.


Disclaimer: The material presented on this website is an information source only. The information on this website is written for people resident in, or affected by the laws of Queensland, Australia only. Links to other sites from this website are provided for the users’ convenience. The LGBTI Legal Service does not endorse these sites and is not responsible for the information on these sites or the use made of this information. If you have a specific legal problem, you should consult a professional legal advisor.

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