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  • Summary Offences in Queensland (QLD)

    If the court in Queensland finds an individual guilty of a particular offence prohibited by the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld), it will issue the prescribed sentencing. However, your penalties may be severe or lesser depending on the “type of offence” you commit under the Act.

    In QLD, there exist two main categories, or the types of criminal offences the Court can convict a person for in Queensland. Section 3 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) lists them as;

    And there are significant differences between these offences. Your career prospects may be influenced, depending on which of these offences a person gets a conviction.

    Summary offences in QLD are disclosed on a national police check in QLD in accordance with the Spent Convictions Scheme of QLD.

    What are summary offences?

    The Summary Offences Act 2005 (Qld) details a list of offences treated summarily in a Magistrate Court in Queensland (Courts of summary jurisdiction). They are also called simple offences to distinguish them from the rather complex and severer indictable offences.

    However, in certain situations, a Judge in a higher court may hear a summary offence. Yet even when this happens, the Court will treat it as it will occur in a Magistrate Court.

    Examples of Summary Offences in Queensland (QLD)

    Division 1 of the Summary Offences Act 2005 (Qld) lists offences about the quality of community use of public places. Some examples of summary violations outlined in this Part of the Summary Act include;

    1. Public Nuisance

    Section 6 of the Summary Offences Act prohibits a person from committing any act that results in public disturbances for others. It includes all actions where the person behaves;

    • Disorderly as in a means to disrupt an event or processor,
    • Offensively to incite a group or others to act,
    • Threatening manner as to cause fear or trauma to others, or
    • Violent way as to damage or cause detriment to a property.

    If such actions or behaviours occur in a licensed vicinity or premises, the person may incur up to;

    • 25 penalty units, or,
    • Six months imprisonment.

    Otherwise,

    • Ten penalty units, or
    • Six months imprisonment.

    1. Urinating in a public place

    It is an offence to pass urine in a public place, especially in licensed premises or areas.

    The Act prescribes punishments up to 4 penalty units for doing so in licensed premises and two penalty units otherwise.


    1. Begging in a public space

    It is an offence in Queensland to be found guilty of the following acts;

    • Begging for money or goods in a public place,
    • Causing or procuring a child to beg in a public space,
    • Soliciting donations of money or goods in a public space.

    The Court prescribes maximum penalties of 10 penalty units or six months imprisonment for such.


    1. Wilful exposure

    It is an offence to wilfully expose your genitals or other private parts without a lawful excuse. If a magistrate finds you guilty of such violation, they can impose penalties up to;

    • Two penalty units, or
    • 40 penalty units or 1-year imprisonment (aggravated cases).

    It is a circumstance of aggravation for a person to expose their genitals to offend or embarrass another wilfully.


    1. Intoxication in a public space

    Section 10 of the Summary Offences Act prohibits intoxication in a public space. For such offences, the Magistrate prescribes maximum penalties of;

    • Two penalty units

    1. Unlawful Assembly offences

    Division 1A and Section 10A of the Act also prescribes all forms of unlawful assemblies in Queensland.

    The legislation describes an unlawful assembly as where three or more persons gather for a common purpose, and

    • It causes a person or group to reasonably fear,
    • Poses risks to a person’s health and safety,
    • Directly disrupts the operation of a business.

    When handling such a case, it is irrelevant to the Court if such meeting was;

    • Lawful or unlawful,
    • What the common purpose of the meeting was, and whether it was lawful.

    1. Wearing or carrying a prohibited item

    It is an offence to carry a prohibited item about to be seen. For this offence, the Court can issue penalties up to;

    • 40 penalty units (60 for second and 100 for third or later offences) or,
    • Six months imprisonment (9 months for second and 12 months for third or later offences).

    1. Unlawful Entry

    Division 2 of the Act prohibits actions of unlawful presence on a property

    Under section 11 of the Act, is an offence for a person to enter or remain in a dwelling unlawfully. For such crimes, the Act stipulates a punishment of:

    • 20 penalty units or one year's imprisonment.

    1. Unlawful driving of motorbike on public land

    Section 11A of the Act prohibits a person from driving a motorbike on public land, except for reasonable excuse. For such offences, the Magistrate can issue up to 20 penalty units.


    1. Using attachments device

    It is an offence for an individual to disrupt the ordinary operation of transport infrastructure. For such violations, the Magistrate can issue up to 50 penalty units or two years imprisonment terms.

    It includes all acts that;

    • Stops an individual from entering or leaving a place of business,
    • Halt or control an ordinary operation because of their safety.

    1. Offences of Possession

    Division 3 of the Act prohibits all possession of any inciting or crime equipment. It includes objects used in;

    • Burglary of a dwelling, or
    • Breaking into a place, or,
    • Entering a motor vehicle with the intent to commit an offence that is indictable,
    • Damage a property.

    The Act prescribes penalties as much as 20 penalty units or a 1-year imprisonment term.


    1. Possession of stolen property

    It is an offence to be caught with possession of the stolen property. It also includes objects that are suspicious of its source.

    The Magistrate imposes penalties of up to 20 penalty units or one year's imprisonment for such offences.


    1. False advertisements

    Section 21 of the Summary Offences Act 2005 (Qld) prohibits all actions that expressly give false information to the public.

    Such actions include false adverts/misinformation for;

    • A child to be born, when they have not been born;
    • Death for a person who is still living;
    • A funeral for an individual who is still alive;
    • Reporting a couple as engaged when they are not,
    • Vacancies that are not available.

    The Magistrate can issue penalties up to 10 penalty units or six months imprisonment.


    1. Sale of potentially harmful products

    The Act prohibits a seller from selling a potentially harmful material to another person if such seller knows that the buyer;

    • Intends to consume the thing (through inhaling or ingestion), or
    • Sell it to another person for consumption

    The Magistrate can impose penalties up to;

    • 25 penalty units (50 for later offences)
    • Three months imprisonment (1 year for subsequent offences)

    The Magistrate can decide the use of "harmful" in this section. However, it also includes all material except those originally intended to be inhaled or ingested.

    What are indictable offences?

    Some offences are considered severer, having more impacts on the victim or the State than others. Indictable offences in QLD are listed down in the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) and must be dealt with on indictment in a higher court (District/Supreme) Courts.

    Penalties for these offences are stiffer and more grievous than for a simple crime. And the procedures and hearings are usually more complex (taking months to complete). Certain indictable crimes can attract as much as life imprisonment terms. Some of these offences are;

    The role of the Magistrate Court for hearing indictable offences

    Even though the Magistrate Court cannot hear strictly indictable matters, it still plays a role in the hearing. No indictable trial can commence immediately in the higher courts without a recommendation from the Magistrate.

    All matters for indictable trials must pass through the Magistrate Courts in a process called the Committal hearing.

    The Magistrate Court conducts a committal hearing where all parties must attend the proceedings. After a committal hearing, the Magistrate Makes a recommendation about whether the matter has sufficient "substance" or evidence to be tried in a court of higher jurisdiction.

    Indictable offences tried summarily

    Although indictable offences are considered grievous, some of them can be heard by a Magistrate if both parties agree. However, before a Magistrate can listen to or issue sentencing for an indictable offence, it must meet some criteria.

    Section 552A to 552J of the Criminal Code Act (1899) in QLD specifies how "eligible" indictable offences can be decided summarily in a Magistrate Court.

    Can all indictable offences be tried summarily?

    In essence, not all indictable offences can be tried summarily. Some indictable crimes are strictly treated on indictment before a Judge or Jury.

    If a Magistrate will hear an indictable offence, the legislation prescribes that such offences;

    • Must not attract a more than a three years maximum imprisonment term, and
    • The prosecution and defendant must agree to have such offences heard in a Magistrate Court.

    The Magistrates should not hear an indictable offence if they conclude that;

    • The sentencing allowed by a Magistrate Court is not sufficient punishment for the defendant,
    • The Seriousness/nature of the offence will be greater or more complex for a summary trial.

    Indictable offences that can be tried summarily by the prosecution’s election;

    • Aiding a person to escape from lawful custody (s 141)
    • Escaping from legal custody (s 142)
    • Harbouring escaped prisoners (s 144)

    And all other offences that obstruct justice.

    Other offences that can be heard summarily also include;

    Assault cases in QLD that are not;

    • Sexually related, or
    • Tied to a subsequent crime, and
    • Where the offence carries over three years imprisonment, but not less than five years.

    It includes the offence of procuring, aiding, counselling or abetting the violations listed.

    Indictable Offences that must be heard summarily, unless the defendant elects for a jury trial

    These offences include;

    • Assault cases;
      • Without aggravating circumstances, and,
      • The Assault case is not sexually related.
    • Offences that attract punishment greater than three years imprisonment, but not more than seven years.
    • Constantly consorting with recognised offenders (s77B)
    • Unlawful drink spiking (s 316A)
    • Dangerous operation of a vehicle (s 328A)
    • Unlawful stalking (s 359E)

    And other offences mentioned in section 552B of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld).

    What is the Limitation period of prosecuting a Summary offence in Queensland?

    Limitation periods are the time frame from when an offence happens to when the prosecutor can charge it before a court. Summary offences across Australia have various limitation periods depending on how long their laws think an offence will still be “relevant”.

    The Limitation period for a summary offence in Queensland is within 12 months from the date of offence. This information is laid out in Section 52 of the Justices Act 1886 (Qld).

    The legislation believes it will be difficult to prosecute an offence that occurred over 12 months ago. However, certain indictable crimes that are treated summarily may not have a fixed limitation period. And indictable offences generally are prosecuted at any time.

    Sentencing a person for a summary offence

    The Judge/Magistrate will only sentence a person where the Court finds them guilty of the offence. An accused person can be proclaimed guilty of a crime through any of;

    • Entering a guilty plea or pleading guilty, or
    • Being found guilty of a summary offence following a trial

    There is a special hearing for sentencing a person found guilty of an offence; Sentence hearing. The Sentence hearing usually holds in an open court with the presence of both parties. The victim may also participate in the sentence hearing through the victim impact statement.

    What sentences does the Court impose?

    Generally, the maximum imprisonment penalty a Magistrates Court can impose in Queensland is a three years term. Except a Magistrate Court formed or sitting on a particular matter.

    However, there are various other penalties the Court can impose for an offender. The Magistrate considers a lot of factors when sentencing and issuing penalties for offenders. Some of them include;

    • The impact of the offence,
    • The nature of the offence,
    • The presence of aggravating circumstances,
    • The national criminal history of the offender,
    • Other extenuating factors around the offence,
    • Emotional and intellectual capacities,
    • Relevant matters or cases connected to the offence.

    Furthermore, the Judge/Magistrate issuing a sentence must abide by the Penalty and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld). The sentences imposed are mainly relevant to the rehabilitation of offenders and restitution to the accused (damage payments, Apprehended Violence Orders, remittances and so on). However, other reasons can be to;

    • Punish offenders,
    • Deter them from future actions,
    • Condemn the offender,
    • Protect the community,

    And any other factors the court deems to be necessary for the case.

    Do summary offences show up on a criminal background check in Queensland (QLD)?

    Summary offences are disclosed on criminal background checks in accordance with the spent convictions scheme legislation for QLD.

    Individuals can obtain their police checks via the Australian National Character Check - ANCC® website.

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