Last updated 1 September 2021

Less serious criminal offences can often be tried summarily in a Magistrates Court without a jury. Some more serious matters (i.e. indictable offences) can sometimes also be heard summarily by a magistrate, while other serious matters must proceed to higher courts for hearing before a judge and jury. Where there is a choice as to which court can deal with a matter, a right of election exists, exercisable either by the prosecution or the defendant. This right of election can be important as it may have an impact on the maximum sentence that can be imposed, appeal rights, and the length and cost of the proceedings.

The Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) (Crimes Act) contains provisions (ss 4G–4JA) that set out which offences are summary offences, which are indictable offences, and which indictable offences can be dealt with summarily.

As noted, the type and quantity of the controlled drug in issue determines the maximum penalty. The things that are controlled drugs, precursors or plants and their traffickable, marketable and commercial quantities can be found in sch 1 of the Criminal Code Regulations 2019 (Cth).

The sentencing, imprisonment and release of Commonwealth offenders are covered by pt 1B of the Crimes Act.