Criminal Law.

Our success in criminal practice has earned us a reputation as Canberra’s most fearless client advocate. We fight hard to get the best results in all criminal prosecution matters.


The experts – without question

Do I need a barrister?

The engagement of a barrister depends on the complexity and seriousness of your matter. Often, one of our competent solicitor-advocates is able to deal with your case.

In more complex or serious matters, a barrister will be brought in as part of your legal team. We are able to engage for your case Queen’s Counsel and senior barristers to represent you. The barristers we use are the most respected in the country.

Do we appear in jurisdictions outside the ACT?

Yes – all of them. As specialist criminal lawyers, our expertise extends well beyond the boundaries of the ACT. Our solicitors have extensive experience and appear in State and Federal courts in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Victoria.

How much will this cost?

Some firms offer a fixed fee, but that isn’t always in the best interests of the client. On occasions, that is an arrangement that can encourage shortcuts to be taken. While there are cases in which we’re able to offer a fixed fee, we do what’s right for the individual client, not what’s easiest – and that means no cutting corners.

We almost always work on an hourly rate, delivering an estimate of costs as soon we’ve analysed your case. There are no hidden costs.

Our clients can trust that we only reach for the heaviest artillery when we need it.

I live interstate, but I’ve been charged in Canberra. Should I get a solicitor in Canberra?

Legal practitioners in Australia can appear anywhere in the country.

My husband has been arrested. I was told he will be before court in the morning. What should I do?

First, speak to us. Police can grant bail, but there are several exceptions in relation to serious charges, and if the defendant has previously contravened bail conditions. Your solicitor can advise of ‘exceptional circumstances’ and if that is necessary to grant bail.

If your husband has been arrested on charges of assaulting you, his solicitor will not be permitted to speak with you. In this case, ask a friend or family member to contact us.

Our 16 year-old has been charged with stealing. The police want us to go along to the police station for the interview. Should we attend?

No. Contrary to your parental instinct, do not attend the police station; and do not advise your child to ‘tell the truth’ in the hope that she or he may be able to talk their way out of trouble. Call us, and insist that no interview should be conducted.

All criminal matters are important, and any conviction is to be avoided. A conviction for a seemingly trivial act of dishonesty may still be shown as ‘stealing’ on their record, for life. Yes, for life. Just because it’s a Childrens Court matter, or the matter is more than 10 years old, doesn’t mean anything – almost certainly it will remain on your child’s record for life, which may cause problems with future employment and other important things.

Do not assume your child does not have a legal defence. Speak to us before saying anything.

The police put a note under my door asking me to ring them to discuss a matter. When I did, they asked me to go to the police station to have an ‘off the record’ chat. Should I go?

No. It’s your right to remain silent. Receiving such a communication is another instance where your best
action to is contact us without delay.

Nothing you say to police is ‘off the record’. Even if it’s not captured on a tape- recorded interview. Anything you may say to police may be used as evidence.

Be wary of ‘thinking aloud’ as you attempt to reconstruct events for police. It is not until trial before the jury when you may realise what you told police sounds suspicious, or even like an admission. Police rely on what you say to them.

There’s a warrant out for my arrest. What should I do?

Contact us immediately before attending a police station. We’ll appear on your bail application and we’ll take it from there.

We can immediately advise you about taking yourself into the City Police Station in the ACT, or your local police station. Before doing so, make sure you take note of the paragraph above, and speak to us first. This will ensure you are before the court that day. Do not wait to be arrested – that only increases the likelihood of you being locked up in custody prior to coming before the court – even longer with public holidays.

People who are ‘on the run’ are not looked on favourably. The inability to guarantee your appearance in court is generally the reason for refusing bail.

What should I wear to court?

As your legal counsel, we’ll look the part but it helps if you apply the same consideration to your appearance. No need for a suit but look smart and a bit dressed up. It’s important to be seen to be making an effort to show your respect for the Court.

What types of cases do we handle?

All of them. A criminal case is any proceeding in which government prosecutes citizens for criminal
offences. Rest assured, we are qualified and vastly experienced to represent you in prosecutions in any
State or Territory in Australia.

In addition to charges brought by the police prosecutions, we also handle prosecutions involving:

  • The RSPCA
  • Municipal prosecutions (i.e. building, traffic and parking, health and safety)
  • Commonwealth Public Service Code of Conduct breaches
  • Professional misconduct tribunals (Medical Board etc.)
  • Taxation infringements, warrants, unpaid fines
  • Student disciplinary matters.

We appear in inquests to represent family members or those who may be suspected of having been criminally involved in a death or fire. Representation in such proceedings is essential – any evidence given in inquests can be tendered in criminal proceedings against you.


We don’t just do everything by the book, we wrote it

As specialists in criminal services, the combined decades of experience of our solicitors are your protection and security. Confidence in our own ability is your shield in the fight.

We also offer a guiding hand and a sympathetic understanding at your hearing, but our face to the opposition is unequivocally confrontational, and never-take-a-backward-step. From the Local and Magistrates Courts, right up to the Supreme Court, our highly-respected lawyers are at home on ground zero. We’re battle-hardened, but never weary. Our role is to devise the winning strategy for your case, including any legal defences available, and to advise you the best course to take.

The offences for which you can be charged in the ACT under the Crimes Act 1900 or the Criminal Code Act 2002 and other related legislation are seemingly limitless. There’s also government regulation covering all manner of things like health and safety, workplace safety, traffic matters, immigration and customs, tax, child protection and animal welfare.

Plea negotiation is one of our strengths. In all matters, we can also negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf about what charges – if any – you agree to plead guilty to. We can submit information about your circumstances leading up to the offence.

When things don’t go well, we are old hands in the courts of appeal. In the rare instance that the result doesn’t fall in our favour, we can launch our counter attack immediately with an appeal.

Like to know more about the offences you’ve been charged with?

We’ve sought to provide a brief description of what’s involved with the most common criminal matters. None of the information on this website constitutes legal advice and is presented for general information only.

For specific advice, please call 6279 4222 and make an appointment to meet with a solicitor.

Known as ‘Armed Robbery’, this offence includes robberies committed in the company of another person and carries a maximum term of 25 years.

A ‘weapon’ can be many things, not necessarily a gun or knife. A blood-filled syringe, a replica firearm, a baseball bat, or an axe are all classified as weapons. The weapon need not be used to constitute an offence, rather the victim can merely be in fear that it will be used

Many factors contribute to the severity of sentencing. These include the type of weapon, the vulnerability of the victim, whether it was premeditated, use of force, the number of offenders, the amount taken, and the effect on the complainant.

This covers a number of sub-categories, including common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, assault causing grievous bodily harm, and assaulting police.

If the complainant (commonly called a ‘victim’ by police) consented to the physical contract, in a boxing match for example, or if the defendant was acting in self-defence – this can be a complete defence.

In a charge of assaulting of a police officer, the officer must have been acting in the course of lawful duty. There are other defences available.

In NSW, this is known as ‘Break and Enter’. The separate charge of ‘Aggravated Burglary’ is where a weapon is used or where another person accompanied the defendant.

There are several instances where ‘aggravating features’ carry higher penalties. These include repeat offences, violence or threats of violence to victims, where the offence was committed while the offender was on conditional liberty (such as bail or parole), and the high value of the goods taken.

DNA test results and fingerprints are often used in burglary prosecutions.

An inquest is when a coroner (usually a Magistrate) holds a hearing to determine the cause of a person’s death.  The law often mandates a coronial inquest when the death occurs in certain circumstances, for example, a death in a custodial environment.  As well as the cause of death, coroners can also make recommendations to changes they think are necessary to certain laws or procedures.

Many people may require representation at a coronial inquest, whether they are the family of the deceased person, a person alleged to have contributed to the death or some other interested party – such as a doctor or a government department.  Although not necessarily an objective of the coronial process, an inquest often involves placing blame on a person or organisation for contributing to or causing the death.

It is also possible that an inquest can lead to criminal charges being proffered against a person.  If the coroner thinks there is sufficient evidence, he or she can pause the inquest process and refer the matter to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for review and charging.

That is why, if you are involved in this process, it is very important that you get good legal advice from a compassionate team experienced in the coronial and criminal law sphere.

There are many tribunals who may preside over matters against members of a profession, occupation orstudent body.

The important thing to remember is that such tribunals or boards don’t generally operate in the same way as courts do. For example, there may be a bench of three or more members instead of one Magistrate or Judge, and the rules of evidence generally do not apply. This makes it harder to keep the proceedings fair, especially if the tribunal members are not trained lawyers. For that reason alone, and experienced and forceful legal representative is imperative.

A tribunal’s ruling against you can have a devastating effect on your career, livelihood, reputation and future.

Examples of such tribunals or cases we assist with are professional disciplinary boards such as the Medical Board, Dental Board, Law Society proceedings in ACAT, ANU proceedings to expel or otherwise discipline students, the Australian Public Service (and ACT Public Service) and the Defence Force.

As soon as you’re notified that there are proceedings against you, tell the legal officer in the department or organisation, you have engaged us to look after your interests. That way you will be relieved of needing to have personal contact with them in the future. Etiquette requires that they must go through your solicitor once they know you have one.

These offences include assault and a range of offences against a person, including murder.

Offences relating to a breach of a Personal Protection Order or Domestic Violence Order are also covered. These matters cause great concern for the courts and the full might of the law is often exercised. In the ACT, there is a designated ‘Family Violence List’ in the Magistrates Court.

Changes to legislation mean that it is harder to obtain bail if you are charged with breaching a Personal Protection Order or Domestic Violence Order (see our FAQ about bail).

While people sometimes make the mistake of going to their neighbourhood solicitor for these matters, you’re better served by our experts. We know the countless complex defences available for drink driving and driving related matters.

Not all solicitors are comfortable in criminal courts – and the lawyer who handled your will, or did the conveyance on your home, is not likely to be a criminal specialist.

We’ve had some remarkable successes in this area because of our research and hard work. Ask us about whether you will be eligible to apply for a Restricted Licence in the ACT, which permits you to drive for restricted purposes at set times. This often means you will not lose your job.

Drug charges can be as serious as a prosecution for murder. They range from minor possession for personal use, to trafficking in commercial quantities, which carries a 25-year maximum term of imprisonment. Manufacturing drugs and trafficking large quantities can carry sentence of life imprisonment.

It’s likely that anyone charged with various drug offences has been and could still be under police surveillance, with listening devices concealed in houses, cars and on the bodies of informers or undercover police. Detection of drug crime is the most sophisticated area of criminal investigation. A listening device warrant for any phone you have used may have been granted. Be very cautious about what you say to your solicitor (and other people) over the phone.

In the ACT (and in most other jurisdictions in Australia) there are provisions that deem certain kinds of handling drugs to amount to offences of trafficking or supply. That means that if you are caught in possession of a large amount of illicit drugs, the law says you are trafficking, unless you can prove otherwise.

If the quantity of drugs is less than the deemed amount for supply or trafficking, a charge such as ‘possessing for supply’ or ‘trafficking’ may be used, necessitating proof of positive acts of trafficking other than mere possession.

Driving with prohibited drugs in your system has been made an offence in the ACT. If found guilty, there are very serious consequences including lengthy licence disqualifications, large fines, and even imprisonment. Call one of our solicitors to discuss your matter immediately.

Federal and State legislation relating to biodiversity, land clearing and irrigation management is the focus of many complex and lengthy investigations, and statutory notices to enter and conduct field work on rural properties and to provide sensitive information and documents are usually followed up with demands for property plans and even summary criminal trials in the Federal Court, the NSW Land and Environment Court, and local courts. Advising in this specialist area, and defending charges, is best suited to experienced criminal solicitors and a special interest of our practice, given the great potential seriousness of the matters which involve very large financial penalties and onerous orders requiring land remediation and being set aside.

Together with the million-dollar penalties for land clearing itself, the investigators’ extraordinary powers to demand information, enter property (despite the ‘Shut the Gate’ movement) and to compel participation in interviews are themselves backed up by a punitive regime of penalties for non-compliance with investigators’ demands.

Aulich regularly works with leading Queen’s Counsel, junior counsel and a panel of expert witnesses in this area.  If you believe you are, or are likely to be the subject of a land clearing or irrigation management investigation, you need expert legal advice immediately.

This can be an exceptionally complicated area of law, relating to obtaining money or a financial benefit by dishonest means – deception, false pretences, forgery and wilful misrepresentation. We strongly advise that you call on us, who will be able to decipher and explain to you what are often technical charges.

We have access to the best forensic accountants and IT technicians who can – if necessary – recreate books and records, and reconstruct computer records and programs.

Fraud cases tend to be very lengthy, with some trials lasting for months. So, it’s important to appoint a legal team with proven stamina in a testing area. Any defence will depend entirely on the facts and charges in each case.

Charges relating to the death of another person (be it murder, manslaughter or culpable driving causing death) are some of the most serious charges on the criminal calendar.  You must have the best in your corner for these matters and that is the Aulich team.

We have a long history of success in this area because it takes a team with specialised knowledge and access to the best experts in Australia to defend them well.  Some matters require the assistance of DNA experts, firearms experts, psychiatrists or motor vehicle accident reconstruction specialists and we know who to go to to get the job done.

Even if you are alleged to have been involved in a death in a peripheral way, it is imperative that you get good legal advice from a criminal law specialist immediately.

This is an area of the greatest activity by the authorities, and even historic offences, are in the forefront of prosecutorial activism. There is no limitation on when such a prosecution can be brought, a fact that applies very strongly in allegations of child sex abuse.

With varying circumstances and numerous types of charges, sexual cases can’t be generalised. Trials for sexual and indecent assault upon adults and children tend to be ‘word against word’.

In adult matters, many clients would like us to introduce evidence or question the complainant about previous sexual experience. This is with the intention of establishing promiscuous behaviour, leading the defendant to believe that the attention was welcome, but expert advise is essential in this regard, because legislation now largely forbids such questioning. A formal application needs to be made to receive exceptional approval.

We have been successful in making such applications in many cases.

There are many charges which fall under ‘sexual offences’ include:

  • Sexual assault without consent (known as ‘rape’)
  • Indecent assault
  • Using a child for production of pornography – making it, trading in it and being in possession of it
  • Sexual assault of a young person and maintaining a sexual relationship with a young person
    • Incest
    • Bestiality
    • Sexual servitude.

The Team

The crack team in crime

Our criminal law team learnt their technique and court-craft on the streets, not just in law school. Picked from the country’s best and brightest, these men and women are on the front line, skilled in the most complex criminal cases.

Peter Woodhouse

Managing Partner

Less More about Peter

After burying himself in John Grisham novels as young man, Peter was drawn to a career in law. His motivations have matured and these days, the only book he’s concerned with is the one he throws at the opposition. Suffice to say, we were so impressed that we simply had to make him a  Managing Partner.

Peter graduated from the Australian National University and since admission he has practised only in criminal law. Beginning his career on the frontlines of criminal defence, Peter worked with the Aboriginal Legal Service in regional New South Wales. He then moved to us to handle very serious and important criminal matters, in New South Wales and the ACT.

Aside from the ACT and New South Wales, Peter has secured excellent results for clients charged with serious criminal matters in other jurisdictions within Australia, including Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Living out his childhood ambitions, Peter has often been featured in the media representing clients in high profile cases and it is fair to say he has nailed the “walking into or out of Court face” when it comes to his appearances in the paper or on TV.

Ben Aulich


Less More about Ben

As founding partner of the firm, our Principal Ben Aulich has established himself as Canberra’s most reputable criminal lawyer.

The word ‘tenacious’ is an understatement. For Ben, winning is everything. If he is quiet in court, it’s not because he is lost for words. He’s fond of saying that one must never interrupt an enemy when they are making a mistake.

After graduating from Flinders University in South Australia with an economics degree, a law degree from Canberra University and a graduate diploma in legal practice from ANU, Ben was admitted to legal practice in 2000. Initially working at a boutique law practice for three years solely in crime, Ben then joined a large commercial litigation firm, practicing in corporate law and commercial litigation. That gave Ben a well-rounded exposure to Court matters and litigation.

Ben’s passion for his client’s rights is infectious. It’s the reason our team is so close-knit, and so committed. It’s helpful that Ben’s fixation with winning is also motivation for clients. He’s certainly not afraid of sleepless nights … if it ensures they ultimately get some sleep.

Charlene Chalker-Harris


Less More about Charlene

A world-champion black belt taekwondo warrior, Charlene is not one to be messed with.

She brings the same level of dedication and grit to her skirmishes in the Court room.  Her successes in both arenas speak for themselves. She may look very elegant and calm, but underneath the polish there is a determined and intelligent fighter.

Originally from California, Charlene ended up in Canberra at the age of 8. She is a graduate of the Australian National University and holds a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Law with Honours.  Charlene has worked as a criminal lawyer in Canberra for more than 6 years.

In her spare time you’ll find Charlene running her own Taekwondo School, Precision Taekwondo Australia, where she is also Chief Instructor.

Charlene also sits on the ACT Criminal Law Committee and Law Council of Australia’s National Criminal Law Committee.

Satomi Hamon

Senior Associate

Less More about Satomi

Satomi has been brought up through the ranks at Aulich Criminal Law.  She started her time with us many years ago as a paralegal, whilst also studying Law at the University of Canberra, ultimately graduating with honours. She progressed to become an Associate in a time much shorter than most and she is deservedly well respected amongst her colleagues and peers.

Don’t let Satomi’s pocket-sized appearance fool you, her character is very large as is her intelligence and skill.  Satomi is dogged and determined when it comes to fighting for the rights of her clients and her results speak for themselves.

Speaking of dogs – Satomi’s other passion in life is her beautiful Golden Retriever, Luna.  Luna has quite the Insta following, and you’d have to admit, she’s pretty cute – @luna.thegoldendog. ‘Sats’ as she is affectionately referred to, is also an amazing cook and has probably taken the most titles in Aulich’s annual Masterchef competition as well as in our bake off challenges.

Carley Hitchins


Less More about Carley

Like Satomi, Carley was also brought up through the ranks at Aulich Criminal Law, beginning with us as a Paralegal, Carley is now an Associate. As Aulich’s self-appointed ‘Welfare Officer’, Carley is always there to make us smile and is a vital part of the Aulich team. That’s not to say that Carley is always bubbles and rainbows, she knows how to throw the sass when she needs to and has demonstrated her dedication to advocating for her clients repeatedly. Having worked alongside her mentor, Peter Woodhouse since she began her legal career, Carley shares the Aulich passion for criminal defence lawyering and her caring nature is crucial to her success with her clients.

Carley’s advocacy skills are incredibly well developed for a lawyer of her age. Almost weekly we receive emails from happy clients of Carley’s raving about her skill and compassion and ability to achieve results. As a testament to the emails, you will find Carley has several outstanding Google reviews highlighting her impressive legal talents and professionalism.

Carley balances her passion for criminal law with her love of dancing. She previously lived in Sydney where she worked as a professional dancer. In her spare time, you’ll find her teaching at Jayz Dance Studios or choreographing dances for her colleagues in the Aulich office.

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