Defendants should have legal advice before appearing in court, and a defendant who is not legally represented can ask the court to put the matter off (adjourn it) so that legal advice can be obtained.
Duty solicitors are available every day at all metropolitan and some country Magistrates Courts. A duty solicitor will usually give advice, and may assist in obtaining an adjournment. In a country court where there is no duty solicitor the court might ask a lawyer appearing in the court to take on the role of duty solicitor and briefly discuss the matter with an unrepresented defendant. It is important to arrive early at the court so there is time to find, and talk to, the duty solicitor.
A person who has been arrested and granted police bail must appear personally on the first appearance (the date and time set out in the bail papers) and on all occasions the case is before the court, even if that person is represented by a lawyer. If the person bailed fails to appear, the court can issue a warrant for her or his arrest.
A person who is summoned and is not on bail need not appear personally if a lawyer appears on the person's behalf [see Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 64]. However, if neither the person charged nor a lawyer attends court, a warrant for the arrest of the person may be issued [see s 58]. Alternatively the court may deal with a summary offence in the defendant's absence if the summons has been served [see s 62A]. This could mean a possible defence, or matters the court should hear in relation to penalty, will not be brought to the court's attention.
See also our Fact Sheet Going to Court.