Local Court > Types of cases

Criminal cases

What is a criminal case?

A criminal case is a case to decide whether a person who has been charged is guilty of a crime or other offence.

The majority of criminal cases in New South Wales first come before the NSW Local Court. Juries are not used in the local court.

Less serious criminal cases, sometimes called summary cases, are typically dealt with by the NSW Local Court alone. Less serious criminal cases include those where a person has received a penalty or infringement notice or a fine and has chosen to have the matter heard by a court.

Serious criminal cases first come to the local court but may progress to a higher court. This is called a committal.

Less serious crimes

Most local court criminal cases are determined by a magistrate. 

If you are on bail, you must attend court unless the court has excused you. If you are not on bail, you can choose not to attend court if you file a written notice of pleading. You can read more information about submitting a written notice of pleading in Going to court for a criminal case.

The person alleged to have committed the offence will enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If a plea of guilty is entered, the court will decide the penalty to impose and the case will be finalised. If a plea of not guilty is entered witnesses will be called to give evidence. A magistrate will decide if the person is guilty or not guilty. If the person is found to be guilty the court will decide the penalty.

Serious crimes

There are serious crimes that cannot be finalised by the local court. In these cases, the local court will conduct a hearing called a committal hearing. The role of the magistrate in committal hearings is to determine whether the prosecution evidence is capable of satisfying a jury, beyond reasonable doubt, that the accused person has committed an indictable offence.

If the magistrate is satisfied that the evidence is capable of satisfying a jury, the person is committed for trial or sentence to a higher court (either the district court or the supreme court, depending on the offences). Cases committed to a higher court are then determined by a judge and jury. 

Other information about criminal cases

Need help?

Call LawAccess NSW 1300 888 529

Before starting any court proceedings you should check which court or tribunal is right for your matter. Call LawAccess NSW for help.

LawAccess NSW is a free government telephone service that provides legal information, referrals and in some cases, advice for people who have a legal problem in New South Wales.

Visit www.lawaccess.justice.nsw.gov.au

The Representing yourself section of the LawAccess website can help you if you have a legal problem in New South Wales. Representing yourself explains legal procedures and forms for court and tribunal cases. It provides:

  • step by step guides to starting and running your case
  • instructions for filling out court forms
  • checklists and frequently asked questions
  • information on alternatives to court
  • contacts for further information and advice

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​The information on this site is a guide only and is not legal advice - see disclaimer.