Categories of criminal offences in Victoria
Criminal offences in Victoria are divided into three categories:
- indictable offences;
- indictable offences triable summarily; and
- summary offences.
Any A criminal act prohibited by state or commonwealth criminal law. An offence is either a summary offence (minor) or an indictable offence (serious). that was known to the (1) The system of law developed by the English courts through precedent and adopted in ‘common law countries’ in the British Commonwealth (as opposed to Roman law (civil law) or ecclesiastical law). (2) The case law made by judges in that system. (3) Case law that is not part of the law of equity. (4) Historically, the rules of law common to all people in England, as distinct from local or customary laws. or expressed by A law made by parliament, either state or Commonwealth. Also called an Act, and Act of parliament or legislation. to be a felony is now referred to as an A serious crime that is generally heard before a judge and jury in the County Court or the Supreme Court a criminal case. Examples of indictable offences include assault and armed robbery..
A further category is serious indictable offences, which are indictable offences punishable on first conviction with imprisonment for life or for a term of five years or more (s 325(6) Crimes A written law made by parliament. Also called an ‘Act of parliament’, ‘statute’ or legislation. 1958 (Vic) (‘Crimes Act (Vic)’)).
Whether an offence is classified as indictable or summary determines in which An independent body that hears legal claims brought by parties and decides between them. Serious cases are heard by a judge and jury, or just a judge. Less-serious cases are heard by a magistrate., in what manner, and after what pre-trial procedures, the offence A document that sets out what a person wants to happen to their money and other property after they die. be tried.
Where an offence is described as a A minor criminal offence, for example being drunk and disorderly, usually heard in the Magistrates’ Court. Compare indictable offence., or if the Act does not say what type of offence it is, then it is to be prosecuted before a Magistrates’ Court as a summary offence (s 52 Interpretation of Statutory rules made by parliament or by bodies the parliament delegates power to, for example a local council or a registration authority. See delegated legislation; statute. Act 1984 (Vic)).
Indictable offences triable only by judge and jury
‘Indictable offences’ are serious crimes that are usually triable only by judge and A panel of people selected from the general public to decide whether an accused in a criminal case is guilty or not guilty, or to decide questions of fact and the amount to be awarded as damages in civil cases., and will therefore be heard in either the County or Supreme Court. They may carry serious consequences for the convicted A person who has committed a crime.. Most of the matters tried in this manner are those crimes specified as such in the Crimes Act (Vic), although there are many other Victorian and Commonwealth Acts that create indictable offences. There are also a number of common law (i.e. not set out in a statute) indictable offences.
Indictable offences triable by either judge and jury or summarily
These offences – although considered serious and classified as indictable offences – may, with the accused’s To agree to something being done, to approve an action or arrangement. See also informed consent., be heard by a magistrate. Section 28 of the CP Act allows for the The time and place at which a court or tribunal hears the parties argue their case and makes a decision. in the Magistrates’ Court of any matter punishable by a maximum term of 10 years’ imprisonment (level 5 imprisonment), or a fine of $120 000 (level 5 fine).Other indictable offences with maximum penalties higher than those referred to in section 28 that can still be heard in the Magistrates’ Court are listed in schedule 2 of the CP Act.
Summary offences: Crimes triable only by the Magistrates’ Court
Summary offences are almost always heard in the Magistrates’ Court. The summary procedure is in the CP Act (ss 27–94). The only exception is where the A person who has been charged with a crime. Also known as a defendant. person is before the County or Supreme Court for an indictable offence; that court may also determine the summary offence if the accused consents and pleads guilty (s 243 CP Act).
Section 25(1) of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1989 (Vic) (‘MC Act’) establishes the The authority of a court or tribunal to hear matters brought before it, based on some factor such as area or law, amount of money claimed, or geographic area. of the Magistrates’ Court in relation to summary offences.
However, many summary offences (in particular, traffic offences) are dealt with without going to court, through the A notice stating that a summary offence has been committed. It also states the amount of any fine that has to be paid. Includes many driving and parking offences. Also referred to as an ‘on-the-spot-fine’. system (see Chapter 3.1: Fines and infringements, and ‘1 Infringement notices’ in Chapter 6.8: Driving offences). Under this system, an infringement penalty will be registered unless the person indicates they want the offence heard by a court, in which case normal court procedures apply.
The hearing of summary offences can proceed in the absence of the person charged. However, a A document issued by a court directing an officer to take certain action. May be a warrant of apprehension, directing that a person be arrested and brought before a court; a warrant of commitment, directing that a person be arrested and imprisoned; a warrant of distress, directing that a person’s goods be seized to satisfy a debt; or a warrant of seizure and sale of real estate. is issued for their To seize a person suspected of breaking the law and hold them in custody. Police have powers to arrest and charge suspected offenders and bring them before a court. if they are on The procedure that allows a person who has been charged with an offence to be released from police control or prison until the hearing of the case. Courts can add conditions to bail. For example, they can require that people released on bail promise to come to the court on a set date, or put up an amount of money that they cannot get back if they do not appear as they promised. See also undertaking. and/or fail to appear at an indictable offence hearing.
Charges for summary offences must be laid within 12 months of the Claimed but not proved. For example, the police can allege in court that a car was stolen, but they then have to prove it with evidence. If you say a person did something illegal you are making an allegation. Unless you can back it up, you will not be able to win a court case about it. offence being committed. Charges for indictable offences can be laid at any time.