If you are reported or arrested and subsequently charged with committing an offence, you will either be issued with a summons to attend court at a later date, or the police may require you to enter a bail agreement to appear in court at a later date.
A slightly different notification process is being used in the Adelaide Magistrates Court. View here to find out more information.
In some circumstances, you may be held in custody to appear in court at the first available opportunity. This must be by 4pm on the first working day after the day on which you were arrested.
Usually, you will be required to appear in the court nearest to where the alleged offence was committed. You can request that your case be transferred to another court (for example, if you live closer to another court), but you can only do so if you intend pleading guilty to the charge. Here is a full list of court locations.
In recent years, specialist courts have been established to deal with offenders with particular problems or circumstances. Examples of specialist courts are the Drug Court, the Court Diversion (mental impairment) Program, the Domestic Violence Court and the Aboriginal Court. If appropriate, your case may be transferred to a specialist court.
Minor offences such as traffic violations and council by-laws are expiable offences, i.e. offences for which you receive an expiation notice (‘on-the-spot fine’, ‘camera fine’, ‘parking fine’, etc). Expiable offences do not require your attendance in court, unless you intend to plead not guilty, in which case you must elect to be prosecuted by filling out the appropriate section on your expiation notice. You may then receive a summons to appear in court at a later date.
The Magistrates Court can hear, determine and sentence on charges for offences which are defined as summary offences and minor indictable offences. The definitions are contained in the Summary Procedure Act. While the definitions are complicated, these are generally offences which carry a maximum of two years imprisonment. Examples of offences within this category include: disorderly behaviour, driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug, theft and assault.
For more serious crimes or major indictable offences such as murder, robbery and rape or where the penalty can exceed five years imprisonment, the Magistrates Court conducts a preliminary examination to determine if there is enough evidence to put the defendant on trial in a higher court. This preliminary examination is called a committal hearing. If the magistrate determines that there is enough evidence to sustain the charge, the defendant is committed to stand trial by jury in either the District Court or the Supreme Court, depending on the seriousness of the charge.