Summary and indictable offenses

Criminal offences are divided into two types based on how serious they are.

Police will contact you by phone or mail to tell you if someone has been charged.

The case may be heard in a different court, depending on how serious the offence is.

If you have questions about the charges in your case, you ask your police contact

Summary offences

Summary offences are generally considered to be less serious. Examples include:

  • road traffic offences (e.g. careless driving, drink driving and unlicensed driving)
  • minor assaults
  • property damage
  • offensive behaviour.

When a person is charged with a summary offence, the case is heard in the Magistrates’ Court by a magistrate, rather than with a judge and jury. The case can go to court without the person accused of the offence being present. 

Indictable offences

Indictable offences are more serious offences.

Examples include:

  • aggravated burglary
  • indecent assault
  • drug trafficking offences
  • manslaughter
  • murder.

When a person is charged with an indictable offence:

  • they must be present at hearings in the court
  • the first hearing (called a committal hearing) is usually heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

During the committal hearing it will be decided whether the case will be heard in the Magistrates’ Court or be sent to the County or Supreme Court. You can find out more about the different courts in Victoria.