Indictable Offences in the Victorian Legal System
Indictable offences carry a maximum penalty of more than 2 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine greater than 240 penalty units. If you have been charged with an indictable offence, please contact our defence experts at Sher Criminal Lawyers immediately for specialist legal advice and representation.
What is an Indictable Offence?
In Victoria, a criminal offence can be categorized as either summary or indictable. Indictable offences are considered more serious than summary offences.
Indictable offences carry a maximum penalty of more than 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine greater than 240 penalty units for a single charge.
Indictable charges are heard before a judge and/or a jury in either the County or Supreme Court of Victoria. However, some indictable offences may be heard ‘summarily’ in the Magistrates’ Court under certain circumstances.
The majority of indictable offences in Victoria are legislated under the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic).
Examples of indictable offences in Victoria include:
- Aggravated assault
- Drug trafficking
- Burglary, robbery and theft
- Murder and manslaughter
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, please contact our defence experts at Sher Criminal Lawyers immediately for specialist legal advice and representation.
Indictable Offences Triable Summarily
The Criminal Procedure Act 2009 [CPA] (Vic) notes that indictable offences may be heard summarily in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria under certain conditions. An indictable offence may be heard summarily if:
- The charge carries a maximum term of imprisonment not exceeding 10 years or a fine of not more than 1200 units or both; or
- The charge is referred to in schedule 2 of the CPA 2009.
However, a summary hearing for indictable offences can only proceed if:
- The court believes that it is appropriate to hear and determine the charge summarily; and
- The accused consents to having their charges heard summarily (s29 CPA 2009).
When determining whether it is appropriate to hear and determine the accused’s indictable charges summarily, the court must consider:
- The seriousness of the offence;
- Whether adequate sentences are available to the court should they hear the matter summarily;
- Whether a co-accused is charged with the same offence; and
- Any other matter the court considers relevant (s29 CPA 2009).
It is also possible for the accused’s lawyer to negotiate with the prosecution in regard to the indictable charges brought before the court. This may lead to the prosecution dropping an indictable charge in favour of an alternative summary charge that is easier to prove summarily based on the evidence available.
Where possible, it is usually beneficial for the defendant to have an indictable charge heard summarily in the Magistrates’ Court because:
- In many cases, the penalties are less severe if the accused is found guilty
- Matters are heard and determined much quicker
- It is less expensive for the accused in regard to the cost of representation
- It is easier to appeal a matter from the Magistrates’ Court to a higher court if necessary
- Certain evidence may be ruled out as inadmissible by the Magistrate
However, in some cases, the defendant may actually find it disadvantageous to have charges heard summarily. It is vital to obtain expert legal advice when deciding whether to consent or not consent to having indictable charges heard summarily. If you require assistance in your criminal matter, please contact our defence specialists at Sher Criminal Lawyers so that we can assess the strength of the prosecution’s case and provide you with advice in regard to your best legal options.
The Court Process for an Indictable Offence in Victoria
In Victoria, an indictable offence matter must first proceed through the committal stream in the Magistrates’ Court before it is trialled in the County or Supreme Court. If the accused is charged with an indictable offence triable summarily, the defendant may be asked whether they consent to having the matter heard summarily in the Magistrates’ Court. If the indictable offence is not triable summarily or the defendant does not consent to having the matter heard summarily, the case may be sent to the County or Supreme Court after a Magistrate has considered the evidence available.
As such, depending on whether the accused pleads guilty or not guilty, indictable matters may involve several complex stages of legal procedure, including:
- Committal Proceedings
- Plea Hearing
- Pre-trial Disclosure
- Directions Hearing
- Sentencing Hearing
What to Do Next
If you have been charged or are under investigation for committing an indictable offence, it is crucial to seek the assistance of an extensively experienced criminal lawyer. Our defence experts at Sher Criminal Lawyers will help you to secure the best possible outcome in your matter by applying our specialist knowledge of the criminal law and the Victorian justice system.
Please contact us as soon as possible if you require legal advice and representation. We are available 24/7 and offer free consultations by way of Zoom, Facetime or in person at our Melbourne and Moorabbin offices.