Types of offences

This information talks about state offences only, not commonwealth offences.

There are many different state criminal offences contained in a range of statutes including, for example:

  • Criminal Code (WA) 
  • Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 (WA)
  • Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA)
  • Firearms Act 1973 (WA)
  • Road Traffic Act 1974 (WA)
  • Graffiti Vandalism Act 2016 (WA), and many more.

How a particular offence is described in the statute affects whether it must be dealt with on indictment in a higher court, or summarily in the Magistrates Court.

Find out more about different types of offences and how and where they must be dealt with.

What are the different types of state offence?

The two main types of offence are a crime or a simple offence. Crimes are more serious than simple offences and carry higher penalties.

All offences, whether a crime or a simple offence, start in the Magistrates Court.

What is a crime?

An offence described as a crime must be dealt with on indictment in the District or Supreme Court, unless there is a summary conviction penalty noted in addition to the penalty on indictment. In this case the crime becomes an either way offence. This means it may be dealt with either in the District Court on indictment, or summarily in the Magistrates Court.

An example of a crime that must be dealt with on indictment is the offence of robbery under s392 Criminal Code (WA).

An example of an either way offence that may be dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court or on indictment in the District Court, is the offence of assault occasioning bodily harm under s317 Criminal Code (WA).

The summary conviction penalty for a crime that is an either way offence is less than the penalty on indictment. Therefore it may be important to try to have an either way offence dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court rather than on indictment in the District Court. This will depend on your individual situation and you should get legal advice to be sure.

What is a simple offence?

A simple offence is any offence that is not described as a crime. A simple offence must be dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court.

An example of a simple offence is disorderly conduct under s74A Criminal Code (WA).

Legal advice

A Legal Aid WA duty lawyer can provide you with advice and representation on almost any offence, whether a crime or a simple offence, while you are appearing in the Magistrates Court. However, the duty lawyer service does not operate in the District or Supreme Courts. If you know you will be appearing in one of these courts you should ensure you have a lawyer to represent you. You may need to apply for legal aid to ensure you are represented.

 

Reviewed: 5 April 2018

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Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.