Last updated 25 August 2016

Section 3 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) (Criminal Code) divides offences as follows:

  • crimes
  • misdemeanours
  • simple offences
  • regulatory offences.

The relationship between these different categories of offences is illustrated in the diagram below:

Types of offences

All offences are either criminal offences or regulatory offences.

Criminal offences may then be indictable or simple. Indictable offences are either crimes or misdemeanours.

Indictable offences cannot be dealt with summarily (i.e. in the Magistrates Court, a court of summary jurisdiction) unless expressly stated. Simple and regulatory offences can be dealt with summarily.

Indictable offences: crimes and misdemeanours

An indictable offence must be prosecuted on an indictment (a written charge by a person authorised to prosecute criminal offences) before a judge and jury in the District or Supreme Court. In certain circumstances, a charge on indictment may be prosecuted before a judge alone, without a jury (s 614 Criminal Code).

In certain situations, an indictable offence may be dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court (ss 552A–552J Criminal Code).

Simple offences

A simple offence (also known as a summary offence) is a less serious offence. Examples of simple offences include being a public nuisance or trespass.

If a criminal offence is not otherwise designated (e.g. as a misdemeanour or crime), it is automatically a simple offence.

In most cases, there is a time limit of one year within which information or a complaint about a simple offence must be laid (s 52 Justices Act 1886 (Qld)).

Simple offences are usually heard in the Magistrates Court.

Regulatory offences

Regulatory offences are set out in the Regulatory Offences Act 1985 (Qld) and include acts such as:

  • stealing goods valued at $150 or less from a shop
  • leaving a hotel or restaurant without payment of a bill for goods or services valued at $150
  • damaging property valued at $250 or less.

Regulatory offences must be finalised in the Magistrates Court and all offences carry fines as the maximum penalty according to the Act.