The Magistrates’ Court of Victoria
What is the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria?
The Victorian criminal court system has a hierarchy which determines which types of cases can be heard in each court. The Magistrates’ Court is known as the summary jurisdiction because it handles less serious crimes. The two categories of offences that can be heard in the Magistrates’ Court are:
- Summary offences; and
- Indictable offences triable summarily.
It is also worth noting that indictable offence matters are commenced in the Magistrates’ Court through a process known as the committal stream. During committal proceedings, the Magistrates’ Court considers the evidence against the accused before ordering them to face trial in either the County or Supreme Court.
The Magistrates’ Court sits in 51 locations across Melbourne and regional Victoria. Approximately 90% of criminal matters in Victoria are heard and sentenced in the Magistrates’ Court.
Matters in the Magistrates’ Court cannot be heard before a jury. Instead, matters are heard and determined by a single judicial officer (i.e. a magistrate or a judicial registrar). Please see ‘Magistrates’ Court Procedure’ for more information.
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.
Matters Heard in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court
The Magistrates’ Court hears and determines summary offence matters. Summary offences carry a maximum penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding 240 penalty units for a single charge. However, some pieces of criminal legislation might prescribe greater penalties to certain summary offences.
Indictable offences triable summarily may also be heard in the Magistrates’ Court under certain circumstances. That is, 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 Criminal Procedure Act 2009 [CPA] (Vic).
Further, a summary hearing for indictable offences can only proceed in the Magistrates’ Court 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).
Penalties in the Magistrates’ Court
The Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic) restricts the maximum penalty that the Magistrates’ Court can impose in any criminal matter:
- 2 years’ imprisonment for a single offence;
- 5 years’ imprisonment for multiple offences; and/or
- A fine not exceeding 500 penalty units for individuals convicted of an indictable offence tried summarily;
- A fine not exceeding 2,500 penalty units for corporations convicted of an indictable offence tried summarily.
The value of one penalty unit in Victoria is around $165.
If a person is convicted of an indictable offence tried summarily in the Magistrates’ Court, the penalty they will receive is generally less severe than the penalty they would have received in a higher court for the same offence.
How We Can Help You in the Magistrates’ Court
Sher Criminal Lawyers regularly advises and represents clients facing criminal charges in the Magistrates’ Court. We appear in Courts around Melbourne on an almost daily basis and also attend Court in regional Victoria when requested. Because we interact with the Courts so regularly, we have an in-depth knowledge of the processes, Magistrates, prosecutors and staff in each Court. We utilise this knowledge to our client’s advantage when planning a legal strategy.
We have offices located in the Melbourne CBD and Moorabbin and it is easy for us to quickly attend Melbourne and Victoria Magistrates’ Courts. Clients also appreciate the fact that they can easily attend our offices should they wish to speak to us in person.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, please contact Sher Criminal Lawyers immediately. We are available 24/7 and offer free consultations by way of Zoom, Facetime or in person at our Melbourne and Moorabbin offices. Our specialist defence team is here to help you secure the best possible outcome in your matter by applying our expert knowledge of the criminal law and the Victorian justice system.