Some criminal charges are considered a summary offence, which means they will be tried in the local court only. Other offences are considered more serious, and will mean that your case is heard in the district or supreme court.
There are also a number of offences, including indecent assault, which can be tried in either court, depending on the circumstances, and the personal preference of the defendant.
Indecent assault refers to an act of indecency against a person.
The act of indecency must have a sexual connotation to qualify for a charge of indecent assault, and it must be proven that the accused committed the offence to obtain sexual gratification, rather than for other reasons such as self-defence.
Acts of indecency can be difficult to determine in some cases, as acceptable standards of behaviour vary from individual to individual.
What is the difference between having my case heard at the local or higher courts?
The main difference between a charge that is dealt with in the local court, and one that is dealt with in a higher court, is the severity of the alleged offence and the penalty the court is allowed to impose if you are found guilty.
If you go to the local court, the case will be decided by a magistrate.
If you attend a higher court, the matter will be dealt with in front of a judge and jury, or a judge alone.
The legal process between these different courts also varies.
Which court your case ends up in will largely depend on the severity of the charges and the complexity of the case.
In some cases, it may be more advantageous for you to have your case heard by a jury, rather than a single magistrate, but it is important to be aware that the penalties are generally harsher if you are found guilty in the district or supreme court than in the local court.
If I’m found guilty in a local court can I still go to jail?
Imprisonment is a penalty for indecent assault, and if you are found guilty in a local court, you can still be sentenced to jail – although the maximum jail term is not as lengthy as it is for a guilty verdict in a higher court.
There is generally a maximum jail term of two years for indecent assault convictions in a local court.
Whether or not you will receive a jail sentence depends on a number of different factors, including whether or not it is your first offence, and how serious the charges are.
What are some of the other penalties I might receive for an indecent assault conviction?
The exact penalty you receive for a conviction on an indecent assault charge will depend on the individual circumstances.
If your offence is tried in a higher court, you could end up with a prison term of up to five years.
In addition to this, there are a number of common penalties for indecent assault including:
- A fine
- A suspended sentence
- A good behaviour bond
- A community service order
If you are guilty of indecent assault, a conviction will be recorded against your name unless you – or your lawyer – are able to convince the magistrate or judge not to record a conviction.
A conviction for indecent assault can impact your ability to work in certain occupations, and may even limit your travel options.
To ensure the best possible outcome in your indecent assault case, make sure you obtain the advice of an experienced criminal lawyer.