Summary offences are less serious offences and are usually dealt with in the Magistrates Court.
Common examples include minor assault and drug offences (such as possession of a prohibited amount or a utensil), public nuisance, public intoxication, public urination, unlawful possession of suspected stolen property and trespass.
When you are charged with a summary or minor offence, you will generally be issued with a “Notice to Appear”, which is a document that lists the charges and provides a date for you to attend at the Magistrates Court.
It is very important that you attend at Court on this date, as otherwise, the Magistrate may issue a warrant for your arrest.
The police can give you a “Notice to Produce Identification Particulars”, requiring you to provide them with your name and address.
You may also have to allow your fingerprints and photograph to be taken.
You can plead guilty or not guilty at this first appearance.
However, you are also entitled to ask for an adjournment at the discretion of the Magistrate to, for example, seek legal advice.
We strongly recommend that you contact us to assess your situation and advise you as to your rights (such as to silence).
As with indictable offences, when a Magistrate is handing down a sentence, you can make submissions to the Court about “mitigating factors”, which are matters in your favour that the Court should take into account when handing down your sentence.
These factors can include the reasons for the offending, the nature of the offence, your background, whether you have shown remorse, your character, the likelihood that you will re-offend, the need to deter the general public from the type of offending and public safety.
There are also certain things the Magistrate is obliged to take into account, such as a plea of guilty.
Another factor to consider is whether to seek that no conviction be recorded against your name, which can affect your future employment, reputation and overseas travel.
In considering your request to not record a conviction, the Magistrate must have regard to:
- The nature of the offence
- Your character and age
- The impact that recording a conviction will have on your economic or social wellbeing, or chances of finding employment
Attending Court can be stressful and it can be difficult for you to properly plead your case to the Magistrate, who is often very busy.
Penalties often include fines, community service, restitution and good behaviour bonds.
Criminal appeals from the Magistrates Court are heard by the District Court.
An experienced solicitor will ensure that all relevant mitigating factors are raised and that proper process is followed by the Magistrate.
Please contact us for more information.
For more information, please see the following external resources: