Criminal lawyers are kept busy dealing with all different kinds of crime, but in fact these all fall under one of three different categories. This is important because the kind of crime committed has to do with which kind of court the person will be tried under; a magistrate’s court or the Supreme Court.
The 3 type of criminal offences are: –
Summary or simple offences. These make up the majority of common offenses and are defined as
- Having no term or imprisonment, but a fine of less than $120,000.
- Having a maximum term of 2 years imprisonment
- Most dishonesty offences of $2500 or less, not including robbery, violence or serial offences, or offences of more than $2500
- Not including arson or bush fire offences
Examples are disorderly conduct, minor criminal damage to property, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. People who are charged with a summary offence must be tried in a magistrate’s court. They cannot be tried with jury.
Minor indictable offences. These are more serious than summary offences, but less serious than major indictable offences. They too, are tried in a magistrate’s court, but the defendant can ask to have them tried in a higher court with a jury. They should only do so after taking counsel from a lawyer, as they could easily be given a harsher sentence. Examples of these offences are: –
- Serious criminal trespass
- Aggravated and indecent assault
- Gross indecency
- Property damage less than $30,000
Major indictable offences. These are the worst kind of offences and will be tried in the Supreme Court or a District Court where there is a judge and jury. They have greater penalties than other crimes. Examples of such offences are –
- Unlawful sexual intercourse
- Property damage worth more than $30,000
Before going to trial, the person must have a committal hearing that ascertains whether there is enough evidence to charge them and get a conviction.
In the case of minor offences, a time limit to laying charges is usually in effect. But when it comes to the more serious crimes there is no time limit, which is why you often see a person charged with crimes committed several decades ago.
While it may seem to be a shame to see a person being charged with a crime committed in their youth when they are old and frail and may have spent many years behaving well and being a useful member of the community since then, it is still necessary to obtain justice for those people who suffered at their hands and may have had their whole lives changed and ruined due to that person’s criminal action.