The following is a simplified timeline of the criminal trial process applicable to a federal money laundering prosecution. The process is similar for other criminal offences. Review the overview of the federal money laundering offences for background information.

Police investigation

Money laundering investigations are conducted by both Australian Federal Police and also by state police. A suspect will not know about the investigation in the earliest stages.

Search warrants and arrest

People often do not learn of the investigation until they are arrested or a search warrant is carried out. In either case the person will be cautioned they do not need to say anything. I strongly advise against saying anything at this stage other than requesting a call to a lawyer.

Record of interview

Police will often interview the suspect at the end of the search warrant. Again, I advise against answering any questions.

Laying of charge

At the end of the interview police may advise that the person is being charged. They will usually be given bail paperwork requiring them to attend Court a few weeks later. If they are refused bail they will appear before a Court on that or the next day.

Magistrates’ Court

It is common to have a couple of appearances in the Magistrates’ Court. The Commonwealth DPP will consider the evidence. Defence lawyers take instructions from their client.

Disclosure and committal

While still in the Magistrates’ Court the accused is given a copy of all the evidence obtained by police. If the accused pleads not guilty there will be one final hearing in the Magistrates’ Court at which a first date in the District Court will be set.


A senior federal prosecutor signs an indictment. This is a formal charge brought in the name of the Queen. This is the formal commencement of the District Court proceedings.

Pre-trial legal argument

It is common in complex prosecutions for legal issues to be raised with the Judge at a special hearing prior to trial.


A federal trial on indictment must be heard by a jury. The jury must reach a unanimous decision.