Last updated 29 August 2016

Less serious criminal offences can often be dealt with 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 impact on the maximum sentence that can be imposed, the 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 or indictable in nature and when indictable offences can be dealt with summarily.

As noted, the type and quantity of drug involved determines the potential maximum penalty. Tables and other provisions, setting out the substances and things that are controlled drugs, precursors or plants and the trafficable, marketable and commercial quantities of those substances, can be found in sch 3 of the Criminal Code Regulations 2002 (Cth).

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