Summary Offences in Queensland

In Queensland, a person can be charged with summary offences or indictable offences. Summary offences are dealt with in the Queensland Magistrates Court or Queensland Children’s Court. Indictable offences may be dealt with by the higher courts. This page deals with summary offences in Queensland. 

Which offences are summary offences?

The Summary Offences Act 2005 sets out a range of offences that are aimed at maintaining good order in the community, particularly in public spaces. These offences include public nuisance under section 9trespass under section 11, and unlawful assembly under section 10A

The Criminal Code 1899 also contains some summary offences, as well as indictable offences. 

The majority of traffic offences, including drink driving, driving while disqualified, speeding and dangerous driving are summary offences. 

Penalties for summary offences 

In Queensland, the maximum penalty that can be imposed for a single offence in the Magistrates Court is three years imprisonment. Some summary offences in Queensland have a lower maximum penalty than this and some are punishable by a fine only.

A person who is found guilty of a summary offence in Queensland may be sentenced to a fine, a good behaviour bond or a term of imprisonment. 

Limitation period

A 12-month limitation period applies to summary offences in Queensland. This means that a charge must be laid within 12 months of the date of the alleged offence. If more than 12 months has passed, a prosecution cannot be commenced. 

Indictable offences heard summarily 

Some indictable offences can be dealt with summarily if the prosecution elects for this to occur. These offences include escaping lawful custody, harbouring an escaped prisoner and some assaults (but not sexual assaults). 

Other indictable offences must be dealt with summarily unless the accused elects to have the matter decided by a jury. These offences include common assaults, stalking and offences that attract a maximum penalty of between three years imprisonment and seven years imprisonment. 

Pleading guilty to summary offences

If you have been charged with summary offences in Queensland, you may be required to attend court to finalise the charge. You may plead guilty on the spot or adjourn the matter to get legal advice and gather supporting material such as character references. 

A Go To Court Lawyer can advise you on:

  • The likely penalty in your circumstances
  • The likelihood of a conviction being recorded

Will I be convicted?

Under section 12 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, courts have a discretion as to whether to record a conviction. In deciding whether to record a conviction against a person, a court will consider:

  • The nature of the offence
  • The offender’s age and character
  • The impact a conviction will have on their employment and economic and social wellbeing.

Pleading guilty online

If you have been charged with a summary offence in Queensland, you have the option of pleading guilty online to avoid the need to attend court. This can be done by completing an online form. This option is only available for minor offences. Online guilty pleas are not accepted for driving offences that may result in licence disqualification. 

If you plead guilty online, you must do so at least two days before the date your matter is listed in court. The material you have submitted will then be read out in court. If your guilty plea is accepted, you will receive correspondence from SPER informing you of the fine and offender levy you must pay.  

It is always advisable to attend court and receive legal advice when you have been charged with offences. 

Pleading not guilty to summary offences

If you have been charged with summary offences in Queensland and want to plead not guilty, Go To Court Lawyers will provide you with specialist advice so that you understand all your options. 

This will include:

  • Identifying any available defences
  • Identifying any evidential issues
  • Assessing the strengths and weakness of the case against you
  • Identifying any witnesses that could be called in your defence.

If you plead not guilty to an offence, the matter will be listed for a contested hearing. A magistrate will decide whether you have been proven guilty after hearing evidence and submissions from both sides. 

If you are found guilty, the magistrate will then decide on the appropriate penalty. If you are found not guilty, they will dismiss the charge. 

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers. 


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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