Being charged with an offence
The police can charge you if they believe you have broken the law. The court will then hear the evidence and decide if you are guilty and what the penalty should be.
Types of offences
In Queensland, there are 2 types of criminal offences:
- Simple offences (or summary offences). These include disorderly behaviour, traffic offences and minor criminal offences.
- Crimes and misdemeanours (or indictable offences). These include murder, rape, robbery, assault, and break and enter.
How you are charged
Police usually charge people with criminal offences by 1of 3 methods: arrest, complaint and summons or notice to appear.
Each method generally requires you to appear before the Magistrates Court to commence proceedings.
When police arrest you, they take you to a watch house (forcibly if necessary) and formally charge you. Read more about being arrested.
Complaint and summons
A complaint and summons is a charge in writing, which has been sworn on oath before a justice of the peace and served on you. You then have to appear in the local Magistrates Court a few weeks later. You do not need to go to a police station.
Notice to appear
A notice to appear provides a general description of the offence charged, rather than the formally worded charge in a summons. It doesn’t have to be sworn on oath, so police can issue it on the spot.
When you are charged
Generally, once you’re charged with an offence, you then:
- get a charge sheet
- view the police prosecution file
- talk to a lawyer
- decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty.
Understanding your charge sheet
If police charge you with an offence, they must give you a notice to appear or a full charge sheet (also called a bench charge sheet), which provides details of the charge.
Police will provide the full charge sheet if they arrest and formally charge you at the watch house. This document is much more detailed than a notice to appear.
Note: You must understand the exact details of the case against you before you decide whether to plead guilty or not guilty.
Reading the police prosecution file
The police prosecution file usually has two parts: the QP9 and the police brief. You are allowed to see these documents to prepare your court case.
The full police brief includes the police witness statements, while the QP9 should include your criminal history, a summary of the offence and the laws under which you have been charged. It should be ready by your first court date.
Always ask to read at least the QP9 before your first court date. If you decide to plead not guilty and the matter goes to a hearing, you will also need the full police brief to properly prepare your case.
Getting legal advice
No matter the charge, you should always get legal advice.
You can contact Legal Aid Queensland, a private lawyer or your local legal centre. You could also talk to a duty lawyer at the Magistrates Court.
Read more about getting legal advice.