Serious Criminal Offences

Old Adelaide Gaol

What Are Serious Criminal Offences?

Although all criminal offences are serious, offences that have the possibility of a lengthy term of imprisonment are considered more serious. These offences are generally known as Major Indictable Offences. A Major Indictable offence is one that can carry a maximum penalty of 7 years or above, although this can vary depending on the offence.

What Court Will My Matter Be Heard In?

Ultimately, all Major Indictable offences must be heard in the District Court, with the exception of Murder which is heard in the Supreme Court.

All charges will begin in the Magistrates Court before moving on to the District or Supreme Court. For a Major Indictable offence, the process in the Magistrates Court is known as the “committal process”.

It is during the committal process that the prosecution obtains and provides the bulk of the evidence against an accused for a particular charge. It is important during this process to have a lawyer representing you as they will be able to negotiate with the prosecution about your case. Your lawyer will be able to ensure you are not charged with an inappropriate offence and indeed may get your case withdrawn or “thrown out” if the evidence against you simply isn’t there.

At the conclusion of the committal process you will be required to enter your plea to the charge. After this point, your matter will be sent to the District Court for either trial or sentence.

If I Plead Guilty Will My Matter Stay In The Magistrates Court?

No. All Major Indictable charges must be heard by a Judge of the District Court. If you plead guilty in the Magistrates Court your matter will be sent to the District Court where you will be sentenced. You will be given credit by the District Court Judge for your early guilty plea.

Having a lawyer who can negotiate on your behalf during the committal process may result in you being charged with less serious offence which may mean your matter can stay in the Magistrates Court.

What Happens Once My Matter Is In The District Court?

It will depend on whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty. On your first appearance in the District Court you will be arraigned. This means you will be asked to enter either a guilty or a not guilty plea.

If you plead guilty, your matter will be listed for sentencing submissions and then sentence.

If you plead not guilty, your matter will be listed for a Directions Hearing. At this hearing, the court will ensure that the parties are ready to proceed to a trial. Once a matter is ready to proceed, it is listed for trial.

How Long Will It Take To Finalise My Matter?

There is no set time line for how long a matter can take. Various factors can influence the time of your matter including its complexity and whether you plead guilty or not guilty.

Matters that go to trial can sometimes take well over a year to finalise. Guilty plea matters generally don’t take as long but they cannot simply be finalised in one or two months. As explained above there is a process that your case must go through before it is finalised.

By having a lawyer act for you, you can ensure that things are progressing quickly and, importantly, that the prosecution is being held accountable for their actions and that your rights are protected.