A summary offence is an offence that can be heard by a magistrate sitting alone. It doesn’t require a judge and jury. A summary offence can also be heard without the accused person being present at court. These offences are usually considered to be less serious offences. Offences include but not restricted to:
- Road traffic offences – for example, careless driving, drink driving and unlicensed driving;
- Some assault offences;
- Wilful property damage; and
- Disorderly behaviour.
When an accused attends court in relation to a summary offence, they have the opportunity to finalise the matter by pleading guilty and proceeding to sentence or to adjourn the matter to seek legal advice.
If the accused pleads guilty, they will be sentenced by a magistrate. The sentence may be a fine, a good behaviour bond, a community-based order, a period of imprisonment or a combination of these orders.
If the accused wants to plead not guilty, they will need to come back to court at least two more times, to attend a contest mention and then a contested hearing.