Summary Offences in Tasmania

In Tasmania, a person can be charged with a summary offence or an indictable offence. Summary offences are minor offences that are dealt with in the lower courts. Indictable offences are more serious offences. This page deals with summary offences in Tasmania.

Which offences are summary offences?

Summary offences include traffic offences such as drink driving, driving whilst disqualified and dangerous driving. They also include public disorder offences such as loitering and using prohibited language. These offences are set out in the Police Offences Act 1935.

Other Tasmanian legislation also contains summary offences.


Summary offences are finalized in the Magistrates Court if the accused is an adult and in the Children’s Court if they accused is under 18.

Penalties for summary offences

Under section 13 of the Sentencing Act 1997, the maximum penalty that a magistrate can impose for a single offence is three years imprisonment (for a first offence) and five years imprisonment (for a second or subsequent offence). However, many summary offences carry shorter maximum penalties than this and some are punishable by a fine only.

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

Will I get a conviction?

Under section 9 of the Sentencing Act 1997, Tasmanian courts have a discretion as to whether or not to record a conviction when a person is found guilty of an offence. In deciding whether to record a conviction, a court must take into account:

  • The nature and circumstances of the offence;
  • The offender’s history and character;
  • The impact that a conviction would have on their social and economic wellbeing.

Limitation period

A limitation period is the length of time that the police have to lay a charge after an alleged offence. In Tasmania, there is a six-month limitation period for summary offences, except where legislation specifies otherwise. This means that after six months have passed from the date of an offence, the offender cannot be charged. 

Indictable offences dealt with summarily

In Tasmania, some indictable offences can be finalized in the Magistrates Court if the defendant agrees to this. These offences are set out in section 72 of the Justice Act 1959.

Some indictable property offences, such as burglary and theft, can be tried summarily where the value of the item stolen is under $100,000. Property offences involving items of a higher value must be dealt with in the Supreme Court.

There are advantages and disadvantages to having a matter dealt with summarily. The maximum penalty is lower, and the matter will be completed much quicker than in the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court is more suited to hearing complex legal arguments. An accused can also be tried by a jury in the Supreme Court.

More serious indictable offences like rape and murder can only be dealt with in the Supreme Court.

Pleading guilty to summary offences in Tasmania

If you have been charged with summary offences in Tasmania, you may want to finalise the matter by pleading guilty. This can usually occur on the first occasion you attend court, but sometimes it is advisable to adjourn the matter to get legal advice and gather supporting material.

Pleading not guilty to summary offence in Tasmania

If you have been charged with summary offences and want to plead not guilty, your matter will need to be adjourned and listed for a date for a contested hearing. You will need to review the prosecution brief of evidence with your lawyer and assess the strength of the case against you and whether you have an available defence. If your matter proceeds to a hearing, you will need to consider which prosecution witnesses need to be cross-examined and whether you need to adduce any evidence in your defence.

Go To Court Lawyers can advise you on:

  • The strength of the case against you
  • The likely penalty
  • Whether there are any available defences
  • Any witnesses that should be called in your defence
  • Any supporting material that should be provided to the court if you are found guilty.

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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