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South Australia Courts

In South Australia, the Magistrates and District Courts hear civil and criminal cases, with the District and Supreme Courts hearing the more serious cases, such as murder and treason.

Magistrates Court

The South Australian Magistrates Court handles both civil and criminal cases. This Court deals with summary offences, which may attract a fine, good behaviour bond, community service or imprisonment of up to two years, in its criminal jurisdiction. These summary and minor indictable offences are usually offences like theft, Centrelink fraud and traffic offences.

The Magistrates court also conducts preliminary examinations of cases that may attract a punishment of more than two years imprisonment, and may order the accused to be dealt with in the higher courts.

District Court

The South Australian District Court, which is the principal court in SA, has the jurisdiction to try any offence besides murder or treason. Most of the matters heard within a District Court have been referred from the Magistrates Court. A Judge and jury, or a Judge sitting alone may conduct trials within the District Court.

Supreme Court - Criminal Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court only hears the most serious criminal matters, most of which are brought under the Criminal Law Consolidation Act. As with the District Court, a Judge and jury, or a Judge sitting alone may conduct trials, most of which have been referred to the Supreme Court from the lower Courts.

What Will Happen In Court SA?

It is important to stress the fact that you should not attempt to represent yourself in court without first consulting a legal professional. Even if you are pleading guilty, you may inadvertently waive your rights if you do not understand the proceedings.

If you are pleading guilty, you will have the charges read to you and you will be asked if you understand the charges – you then plead guilty. At this point, you (along with your legal representation) will have the chance to explain your version of events, give details about your personal circumstances and produce any documentation and references. The Magistrate will consider your position and will then either state your penalty, or set a date for a sentence hearing.

If you are pleading not guilty, you will have an initial court appearance – called a mention date – in which you will be given an adjournment or summary hearing date. There may be more than one adjournment, depending on whether or not the prosecution and/or defence need more time to gather evidence or witnesses.

On your trial date, you will need to have available all of your supporting evidence and witnesses. The prosecution (the police) will give their evidence and so will their witnesses. Your legal representation will now usually cross-examine the witnesses, and the prosecution may then re-examine the witnesses.

At this point, if the Magistrate finds that there is not enough evidence to proceed, the case will be dismissed, otherwise, your legal representation will then be able to call witnesses and produce evidence for examination.

Following the questioning of the witnesses, the prosecution and defence will summarise their cases. After all the evidence has been heard, the Magistrate will either find you not guilty, which means you can go home, or guilty, which means that the Magistrate will hand down your sentence. 

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