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Summary Offences in Western Australia

In Western Australia, a person can be charged with a summary offence, an indictable offence or an either way offence. Summary offences are minor offences that are dealt with in the Magistrates Court. Indictable offences are serious offences that are dealt with in the District Court or Supreme Court. Either way offences are offences that can be dealt with by a magistrate, or committed to a higher court, depending on the circumstances. This page deals with summary offences in Western Australia.

Which offences are summary offences?

Summary offences include traffic offences as well as minor criminal offences.

The Road Traffic Act 1974 contains summary offences relating to driving such as drink driving, dangerous driving and driving while disqualified.

The Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 contains a lot of summary offences. These include disorderly behaviour in public under section 74A and trespass under section 70A.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 contains summary offences relating to drug use, including selling drug paraphernalia under section 7B and allowing premises to be used for the preparation, sale or supply or a prohibited drug or plant under section 5.

Other Western Australian legislation also contains summary offences.

Penalties for summary offences

The maximum penalty that can be imposed for a single offence in the Magistrates Court in WA is imprisonment for three years. Some summary offences have lesser maximum penalties and some offences are punishable by a fine only. In practice a person found guilty of a summary offence may be sentenced to a fine, a community based order, a conditional release order, or a term of imprisonment.

Will I get a conviction?

Under section 45 of the Sentencing Act 1995, a court that finds a person guilty of an offence may make a spent conviction order if the offence is trivial and the offender is a person of prior good character.

When a conviction is ‘spent’, it does not appear on your National Police Certificate, and you are not obliged to disclose it in most circumstances. Essentially, a spent conviction order means the person will not suffer any adverse effects from having a conviction recorded.

Limitation period

A limitation period is the amount of time the police have to lay a charge after an offence occurs. Summary offences in Western Australia have a limitation period of 12 months from the date of the offence. If an offence is reported more than 12 months after it occurs, the offender cannot be charged.

Either way offences

Either way offences are offences that can be dealt with in the Magistrates Court or committed to a higher court. These offences have a maximum penalty that applies when they are dealt with as summary offences and another that applies when dealt with on indictment.

Either way offences include fraud, indecent assault, and possessing stolen property.

An either way offence is dealt with as a summary offence unless either the defence or the prosecution applies for the matter to be dealt with on indictment. This may occur because of the seriousness of the allegations, because a co-offender is to be dealt with on indictment, or where it is in the interests of justice.

Pleading guilty to summary offences in Western Australia

If you have been charged with summary offences in Western Australia, you will be required to attend the Magistrates Court. If you want to plead guilty, you may be able to finalise the matter on the spot. Alternately, you can adjourn the matter to seek legal advice and gather supporting material such as character references.

Pleading not guilty to summary offences in Western Australia

If you have been charged with summary offences in Western Australia and want to plead not guilty, your matter will need to go through several procedural stages before it is finalised. This will include obtaining the prosecution brief of evidence, attending a summary case conference to see whether the matter can be resolved, and obtaining a date for a contested hearing.

At the contested hearing, a magistrate will hear evidence and submissions from both parties. They will then decide whether you have been proven guilty. If you are found guilty, they will then impose a penalty. If you are found not guilty, the charge will be dismissed.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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