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Police & Criminal Law

On this page

Types of Crime

Summary Offences

  • Charges are tried by a magistrate in the Magistrates Court
  • Less serious offences than those tried by a judge and jury ("indictable offences")
  • Penalties are less severe
  • You cannot insist on a jury trial
  • Proceedings for a summary offence must be started within 6 months of the alleged offence

Examples of Summary Offences are DUI, street offences, offensive conduct or language

Indictable Offences

  • Charges are tried by a judge and jury
  • Extremely serious charges such as murder are tried in the Supreme Court
  • Other indictable offences are heard in the District Court
  • There is no time limit for when charges must be laid for an indictable offence

Examples of Indictable Offences are murder, robbery, malicious wounding and dangerous driving.

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Your Rights, Criminal Law Basics

  1. You are innocent until proven guilty.
  2. The prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
  3. Silence can rarely be used to suggest guilt.
  4. A person who has been acquitted cannot be tried again for the same offence. (the double jeopardy rule)
  5. A person charged with a summary offence under the Summary Offences Act may ask the police for further details of the charges (for example; where, when and how the police claim the offence occurred).
  6. If the police fail to provide these details, then the Court must either adjourn the charge until they are supplied, or dismiss the charge.
  7. A request for particulars should be made in writing at least 14 days before the hearing.

Arrest, Your Rights & Bail for general information on topics such as search and seizure and rights against self -incrimination.

Common Types of Crimes


Can include threats (real) of violence or where a victim is struck without their consent. More serious kinds of assault carry bigger penalties.


Can include instances where you find something and keep it, "borrowing" money without consent, receiving stolen property and obtaining money or goods by false pretences (usually telling lies).

A person charged with shoplifting can be searched by a police officer.

Store staff who believe on reasonable grounds that somebody has stolen from the store can detain the suspect until the police arrive.

Shoplifting is usually punished by a fine, but repeated offences may lead to a jail sentence.


Often it can be hard to understand why a penalty seems to be too light or too hard when we read or hear about it in the media.

Judge for yourself: A Guide to Sentencing in Australia explains in plain English what goes on in the background in deciding the appropriate sentence.

What factors does the court take into account? How much discretion does the judicial officer have? To what extent is the discretion limited? Why is a particular penalty chosen? Why a non-custodial sentence rather than imprisonment? Why a minimum sentence of three years for a bashing rather than, say, ten years? Is the sentence going to be effective? How will we know?

Acts, Regulations, Rules & Forms

Are you looking for detailed information like this, or contact details for any of the bodies mentioned on this page. If so, then start on our Criminal Law for Lawyers page.

If it isn't there, then start on our Finding Detailed Legal Information page.

Please read our warning on that page "Be careful using these resources".

The Law is not always as straightforward as it appears. We have not included any information about when and how to use that information or any traps. We assume that the Lawyers will know this.

Help Us Improve

Please give us feedback about your experiences using Foolkit and ideas for improvements.


Have you been a Victim Of Crime?

You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. A Victims of Crime fund exists to help those that cannot be readily compensated by the perpetrator of the crime against them. In terms of obtaining compensation, it is a last resort - in other words - it should be accessed when all other means of obtaining compensation have been exhausted.

To find out more about applying for Victims of Crime compensation, go to the Commissioner for Victims Rights website and Victims of Crime by the Legal Services Commission..

There are lawyers that can assist you with your application. Contact the Law Society of South Australia on 8229 0222 to find one.

Avoiding Trouble

  • If the police suspect you of having committed an offence, do not consent or agree for the police to do anything without speaking to your lawyer first.
  • The same applies to answering questions, participating in a record of interview or appearing in an identification parade. You must though give your name and address and, in some cases, information about the identity of the driver/owner of a vehicle.
  • When the police say they just want to ask a couple of questions to eliminate you from their enquiries or to clear something up - that is often not what they really have in mind.
  • The Prosecutor decides whether to drop criminal charges, not the victim.
  • Be polite and respectful of the police.
  • If stopped by the police, stay calm and in control of your words, body language, and emotions.
  • Don't resist a police officer, even if you think you are innocent.

National Police Certificate

A National Police Certificate or a 'police check' provides a summary of a person's criminal history. It is sometimes requested by organisations as one part of their process to ensure the integrity of their staff or volunteers.

You must apply to obtain the National Police Certificate(Police Check), or copies are available from your local police station. Fees and charges apply.


Information on paying fines and what to do if you are unable to pay your fine in time is at the Fines Payment Unit website.

Easy Pay Fines Call Centre
1800 659 538

South Australia 1  crime police criminal law charged summons jail sentence guilty offence fine victime of crime legal aid prisoner

Need Advice From A Lawyer?

If you have been served with a summons or have been requested to attend a police station for any reason, it is best you seek advice from a lawyer.

It is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible - don't leave it to the last minute.

See Foolkit's Choosing Your Lawyer page.

Smart Guy Needs a Lawyer

Smart Guy Needs a Lawyer is a publication aimed at young people who may need to attend court or see a lawyer. It explains how young people should choose a lawyer and what to expect when they see them.

Applying for Legal Aid

Removing Old Convictions

Some South Australian convictions can be removed from your record.

These will not appear on a national police certificate.

See The Spent Convictions Act information sheet

Appearing In Court

Going to Criminal Court - Victims & Prosecution Witnesses

  • When required to attend Court, you should dress appropriately.
  • Men should wear a suit and tie if possible, and ladies, a smart suit or dress. Work uniforms should be avoided, if possible. Shorts, jeans, thongs, slacks and short dresses should be avoided at all costs.
  • Arrive at Court on time. Plan your arrival in advance, allowing extra time for public transport delays, or traffic problems. You will also be required to go through airport style security before being allowed into the Court Building.
  • Aim to arrive at least ten (10) minutes early and inform the Court official in the foyer of the Court of your arrival, especially if you are representing yourself (i.e. you do not have a lawyer).
  • Loud talking or whispering whilst court is in session is unacceptable.
  • Turn off your mobile phone before entering Court premises
  • You must always show respect to the judicial officer at all times. Judicial officers are addressed as "Your Honour".
  • You should bow slightly upon entering, and leaving a Court when it is in session (see how the lawyers and staff do it).

SA Police

60 Wakefield St, Adelaide SA 5000

Phone: (08) 8463 7400
Fax: (08) 8463 7001

Cells Nelson St Adelaide (08) 8207 4366
Criminal Justice Section (08) 8207 5858
Criminal Investigations (08) 8463 7105

Christies Beach

94 Dyson Rd
Christies Beach SA 5165

Phone: (08) 8392 9000
Fax: (08) 8392 9005

Cells - (08) 8392 9018

Criminal Justice Section
(08) 8392 9116

Community Program Unit
(08) 8392 9059

Criminal Investigations
(08) 8392 9094


17- 19 Frobisher Rd
Elizabeth SA 5112

Phone: (08) 8207 9411
Fax: (08) 8207 9462

Cells - (08) 8207 9453

Criminal Justice Section
(08) 8207 9416

Community Program Unit
(08) 8207 9931

Criminal Investigations
(08) 8207 9447

Hindley Street

26 Hindley St
Adelaide SA 5000

Phone: (08) 8303 0525

Holden Hill

2a Sudholz Rd
Holden Hill SA 5088

Phone: (08) 8207 6000
Fax: (08) 8207 6009

Cells - (08) 8207 6121

Criminal Justice Section
(08) 8207 6082

Community Program Unit
(08) 8207 6025

Criminal Investigations
(08) 8207 6073

Port Adelaide

244 St Vincent St
Port Adelaide SA 5015

Phone: (08) 8207 6444
Fax: (08) 8207 6400

Cells - (08) 8207 6351

Community Program Unit
(08) 8207 6325

Criminal Justice Section
(08) 8207 6440


333 Sturt Rd
Bedford Park SA 5042

Phone: (08) 8207 4700
Fax: (08) 8207 4795

Cells - (08) 8207 4716

Community Program Unit
(08) 8207 4820

Criminal Investigations
(08) 8207 4888

Criminal Justice Section
(08) 8207 5858

Other Police Stations

Find your local policed station

Other Police Branches

Anti Corruption Branch (08) 8207 2200

Crime Reduction Section (08) 8204 2430

Corporate Communications (08) 8204 2645

Dog Operations (08) 8207 4178

Drug & Alcohol Policy (08) 8204 2995

Drug & Organised Crime (08) 8463 7800

Electronic Crime (08) 8463 7430

Internal Investigation Branch (08) 8204 2649

Major Crime (08) 8463 7840

Major Fraud (08) 8463 7430

Major Crash Investigations (08) 8207 6559

Mounted Operations (08) 8207 4111

Sexual Crime Investigation Branch (08) 8207 5800

Transit Police (08) 8303 0500

Water Police (08) 8242 3466

Jury Duty

Information on Jury Duty is available at the Courts Administration Authority website.


Free Information

The Legal Services Commission Law Handbook - Criminal Law and Traffic Offences (SA) has a chapter with general information for the public on Criminal Law. There are also chapters on Expiation Fees and Fines, Prisoners and Victims of Crime.

Traffic Offences

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Character references

A character reference helps to show the court that people in your daily life think highly of you and that you are a person of good character.

It shows the court that you have good qualities, are not likely to offend again if given a second chance and that a more lenient penalty (sentence) may be appropriate.

  • Character and other references (Note: discuss any special reasons why a conviction should not be recorded. This is similar to a "spent conviction order" referred to in this WA article)