If you have been asked to appear before the Queensland Magistrates Court for a hearing, know that the timing of this legal appointment is not set in stone. The first court date, called the notice to appear, offers the opportunity for both sides to negotiate a compromise, or to list the matter for trial before a judge. This is an important meeting, and failure to prepare adequately for it, with the right legal help, can be damaging for your chances of achieving a favourable outcome.

However, with a good reason and if you follow the proper legal procedure, you can apply for your court date to be adjourned to another time that better suits you. Before beginning this process, you need to ensure that you understand how and for what reasons you can adjourn your hearing by reading our guide.

What does adjournment mean?

On attending the first court date appointed by the Magistrates Court, an adjournment is an option available to both prosecutors and the defendant allowing them to defer the initial hearing. This postponement is based on several stipulations, including:

  • That both the plaintiff and the defendant, or their legal representatives, attend the right court on the appointed date.
  • On the condition that the defendant, at all times, respects the authority of the court's representatives.
  • If the defendant follows the right administrative procedures when requesting the adjournment.
  • That the defendant consents to a bail undertaking.

Defendants should ensure they have a good reason for requesting an adjournment. It is at the discretion of the court whether the reason you provide is suitable to warrant delaying the hearing.

3 reasons for adjourning a Magistrates Court hearing

Adjourning a hearing is an option that should only be used if the applicant will benefit from the court date being moved. A holiday or social event is not a good reason to postpone – your adjournment reason needs to be sufficiently justified. Causes could include:

  1. Requesting more time for reviewing the materials presented in the initial hearing.
  2. The defendant's legal counsel requiring additional preparation. This could include discussing defence options with the client or negotiating with the plaintiff for a suitable settlement.
  3. Personal reasons, if they are suitably extenuating. Medical grounds, such as sickness or an appointment that can't be moved, are usually accepted by the court. Other reasons, such as compassionate grounds or personal bereavement, are often suitable for adjourning your court date.

When applying for an adjournment, it's often necessary to provide supporting documentation to corroborate your application. If you have a medical appointment or are too sick to attend the hearing, a doctor's certificate is a minimum requirement to prove your reason for absence.

You should never assume that the court will grant an adjournment, especially if you haven't sought legal advice when making your decision. But, armed with a good reason, you stand every chance of success that your postponement will be successful.

How do I apply to adjourn my court date?

There are numerous options available for meeting the administrative criteria for an adjournment. Defendants can inform the Magistrates Court that they intend to adjourn their court date prior to the first hearing online via the Queensland Courts website. This is only possible if applicants meet the following criteria:

  • Applications are submitted at least three business days before the court date.
  • The legal case in question is appearing before the relevant court list.
  • They don't request the hearing to be adjourned to an alternative courthouse.

If defendants fail to meet these requirements, they are still able to submit an adjournment request through email, fax or post. Additionally, defendants can orally request a new court date if they or their legal representative attends the initial hearing.

Considering legal advice is essential at this point. An expert lawyer can help you decide on the best course of action and gather the information you need in support of your case. The stronger your case for deferral, the more likely the court will grant your request.

What happens after I've asked for adjournment?

The court will consider your request and all the surrounding circumstances in deciding whether or not to grant the change of date. If you applied for an adjournment online or via post, the Magistrates Court registry will reply as soon as possible. Online adjournment requests are normally answered more quickly.

Seeking expert legal advice

The Queensland court process can seem intimidating, especially when you are requested to attend a hearing for the first time. For more information about the court process or to speak to an expert, contact Beavon Lawyers today for a free consultation.