indictable offence

What is a summary/indictable/strictly indictable offence, and what does this mean for where your case will be heard?

If you have ever been summoned for a criminal charge, it is likely that you have seen the words summary or indictable on your court attendance notice (often abbreviated to “CAN”). Whether your offence is labelled a summary offence or indictable offence will determine factors such as:


  • How long your case will take to finalise;
  • Which court your case will be heard in; and
  • What possible penalties may be handed out.

An indictment is a court attendance notice. It originates the criminal charge and requires you to attend court. An indictment summons you for a more serious criminal charge.

An indictable offence is more serious than a summary offence, so it carries much higher penalties. A significant number of indictable offences can be heard in the Local Court summarily on election of the police or accused person. There are however certain criminal charges labelled “strictly indictable offences” which can only be dealt with in the District Court. Examples of indictable offences are homicide, assault and robbery.

A summary offence is simply “not an indictable offence”. Charges are heard summarily when they are before a Magistrate in the Local Court. These matters generally carry a maximum penalty of no more than 2 years gaol. However, depending on the severity of the charge, the police may elect for a charge to be heard in the District Court. This elevates penalties available to be imposed for the offence. Examples of summary offences are traffic offences or offensive conduct.

If you have been summoned to court, contact our expert criminal team in Sydney or Melbourne.

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