Melbourne Lawyers for Indictable Offences 

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Navigate Serious Criminal Charges 

Indictable offences are serious criminal charges that can result in financial penalties and jail time.  

To fight a charge or ask for leniency during sentencing, you need to present your matter to the Court in the right way.  

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What Are Indictable Offences? 

Indictable offences are more serious offences that carry a maximum penalty of more than 2 years imprisonment, a fine of more than 240 penalty units, or both (section 112 of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic)).     

Examples of indictable offences include:  

  • indecent assault; 
  • drug trafficking offences; 
  • aggravated burglary; 
  • rape and some other sexual offences; 
  • manslaughter; 
  • murder; and  
  • treason.  

Unlike summary offences, a person who has been charged with an indictable offence has the right to defend themselves before a jury. 

The proceeding will commence in the Magistrates’ Court for a committal hearing, but, if committed, the matter will be heard in the County Court or Supreme Court of Victoria.   

Drug Trafficking and Cultivation Charges 

Drug trafficking and cultivation – selling or growing illegal drugs – are both serious charges with penalties ranging from 15 years to life in prison. 

If you’ve been charged with drug trafficking or cultivation (or think that you could be in the future), it’s important to speak to a criminal solicitor as soon as possible. 

A solicitor can help you understand your rights, especially around police searches, prepare a strong defence, and, if necessary, negotiate with the prosecution for a lighter sentence. 

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Murder and Manslaughter Charges 

In Victoria, illegally killing someone falls into four different categories: 

  • Murder (intentionally and unlawfully killing a person) 
  • Infanticide (a mother killing her child aged under 2 as a result of mental disturbance from that child’s birth) 
  • Voluntary manslaughter (unintentionally killing someone as the result of a conscious, voluntary, deliberate, unlawful, and dangerous act) 
  • Involuntary manslaughter (unintentionally killing someone as a result of criminal negligence or an unlawful dangerous act without intent to seriously harm the person) 

Although manslaughter and infanticide have less serious penalties than murder, any charges relating to ending a person’s life can have serious impacts on your liberty, finances, and reputation. 

If you are under investigation or have been charged with murder/manslaughter, don’t speak to the police, even if you haven’t done anything wrong. 

Instead, engage a team of experienced criminal solicitors as soon as possible. 

Murder/manslaughter cases are exceptionally complex, with verdicts often hinging on throwaway comments or single pieces of DNA evidence. 

To move forward with your life, it’s important to adopt a legal strategy that presents your version of events in the best possible light. 

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Going to Court for Indictable Offences 

Filing Hearing 


The prosecution provides the Court with their brief of evidence.  

The Court then sets a timetable for the exchange of information between the prosecution and the defendant’s lawyers and lists the matter for a committal mentions hearing. 

Committal Mentions Hearing 


Before a committal mentions hearing, the prosecution will provide the defence with a hand-up brief that includes copies of the prosecution’s evidence, including witness statements and exhibits.  

At committal mentions hearings, the Court typically deals with issues relating to the production of evidence, including whether the defence lawyers will be granted permission to cross-examine witnesses. 

The Court may also commit the matter directly to one of the superior courts or determine whether any of the charges can be heard summarily in the Magistrates’ Court.  

Committal Hearing 


The Court decides whether there is sufficient evidence to commit the accused for trial.  

Both the prosecution and the defence will be able to produce evidence by calling witnesses and/or providing evidence in written form.  



Once a defendant has been committed to stand trial, the prosecution will provide the defence with an indictment.  

This is a document setting out the charges and the particulars of the offences that the police have charged the defendant with.  

Plea Hearing 


Once a defendant has been committed to stand trial, the prosecution will provide the defence with an indictment.  

This is a document setting out the charges and the particulars of the offences that the police have charged the defendant with.  

Plea of Guilty 


If the defendant pleads guilty, the court will list the matter for a plea hearing.  

During that hearing, the prosecution will read a statement of alleged facts and the defendant will formally enter a plea of guilty.  

The defence lawyers will then provide a statement on behalf of their client and outline any mitigating factors that support a lesser sentence.  

Both the prosecution and defence lawyers will make submissions for the penalties that they consider the judge should impose.  

The Court may either make a decision straight away or reserve judgement to consider the appropriate sentence.  

Plea of Not Guilty 


If the defendant intends to plead not guilty, the matter will be listed for a directions hearing or a case conference.  

If the matter is set for a directions hearing, the defendant will be formally arraigned during this hearing.  

This means that the prosecution will read out the charges and the defendant will confirm whether they are pleading guilty or not guilty.  

At the directions hearing, the Court will also make procedural orders such as establishing dates for documents to be filed and setting the date for trial.   

It is important to note that throughout this time, the defence team will be assessing the weight of evidence.  

They will be determining whether an agreement can be reached with the prosecution, whereby a plea can be entered for a lesser sentence or reduced charges.  

The defence team will continue to advise you of this throughout this hearing stage.   

There will then be a last pre-trial hearing before the final trial begins.  



If the case cannot resolve, the matter will proceed to trial. Any legal issues will be determined by the Court before the jury is chosen.   

A criminal trial starts with opening arguments. The prosecution then presents its case, followed by the defence presenting its case in response.  

After all the evidence has been presented to the jury, both sides will make closing arguments.   

The jury will then decide whether the prosecution has proven its case beyond reasonable doubt.  

In cases where there are multiple charges, it is possible for a defendant to be convicted of some or all charges, or to be acquitted of some or all charges.  

If the jury acquits the defendant on all charges, the process will be over. If the jury finds the defendant guilty on at least one charge, the Court will hold a plea hearing.  

At the plea hearing, the Court will sentence the defendant for the charges of which they were convicted.



If the defendant disagrees with the verdict or penalty imposed, the defendant has 28 days to lodge an appeal.  

If the trial was heard in the County Court or the criminal division of the Supreme Court, the appeal will be heard in the Court of Appeal within the Supreme Court of Victoria.   

Your Criminal Law Team 

Jesse LaGreca 
Partner | Principal Solicitor 

Jesse is a highly experienced solicitor admitted at both the Supreme Court of Victoria and the High Court of Australia. 

In criminal trials, he excels at advocating for his clients’ innocence and reduced culpability, especially in indictable cases involving drug or violence charges. 

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Indictable Offences FAQs 

What’s the difference between a summary offence and an indictable offence?

A summary offence is a criminal offence that is judged solely by a magistrate in the Magistrates’ Court. You won’t have to argue your case in front of a jury. 

An indictable offence is a more serious criminal offence that can be heard in the Magistrates’, Country or Supreme Courts. Often, indictable offences will be argued in front of a jury, although judge-alone trials are also possible in specific situations.  

What information do I have to give to the police without a warrant?

The only information you must give the police is your name, current address, and date of birth. Without a warrant, police don’t have a right to any other information, regardless of what they tell you. Once you’ve given the police those three pieces of information, tell them that you want to speak to your lawyer from Pentana Stanton Lawyers. They are legally required to let you speak with your lawyer. 

Police can also only search you, your house, or your car under certain circumstances.  These circumstances include: 

  • if they have a warrant to search the premises or arrest someone on the property; 
  • if you let them; 
  • if they reasonably believe that someone on your property has committed or will commit a serious offence; 
  • if you are in a designated area, which are often areas where repeated offences have taken place; 
  • if you or your car are in a public place (such as a shop or a street) and police have reason to suspect that you or your car has illegal drugs, weapons, explosives, or graffiti instruments; 
  • if they believe that a family violence safety notice, a family violence direction, or an intervention order has been breached; 
  • if they’re chasing someone who has escaped from prison or police custody; and 
  • if they have reason to believe that family violence is or will be committed. 

Police must tell you why they want to search you. Never resist a police search, even if it’s illegal or overly rough – the police can charge you with ‘hindering police’ if you do. Instead, ask a friend or passer-by to film the incident and speak to a lawyer to lodge a complaint as soon as you can. 

What’s the difference between drug possession, cultivation and trafficking in Victoria?

The terms ‘possession’, ‘cultivation’ and ‘trafficking’ in relation to drugs are defined in the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic). 

Possession is when you have a ‘drug of dependence’ (that is, a non-medical drug) in quantities less than a ‘trafficable quantity’. Different drugs have different trafficable quantities. You can find the amounts for each drug in Column 3 of Part 3, Schedule 11 of the Act. For example, MDMA (also known as pingers or ecstasy) is considered ‘trafficable’ if you have 3 grams or more of it. 

Trafficking is when you possess a drug in trafficable quantities, when you sell, exchange, agree to sell or exchange, offer for sale, or have in possession for sale a drug, or when you manufacture a drug.  

Keep in mind that a charge of trafficking is not the same as a charge of trafficking in commercial quantities. If you possess a drug in a quantity that meets the commercial or large commercial quality amounts specified in Schedule 11, your charges are much more serious. If you’re found guilty, you could be facing life in prison. 

Cultivating a drug refers to the act of sowing the seed of a narcotic plant, planting, growing, nurturing or harvesting a narcotic plant, or grafting, dividing or transplanting a narcotic plant.   

What defences can you use against murder/manslaughter charges?

Killing someone isn’t always legally classified as murder. Even if you did kill someone, you may be cleared of legal wrongdoing by using a defence. There are five main defences, including: 

  • self-defence, which is when you kill someone to defend yourself in circumstances where that level of self-defence is reasonable; 
  • duress, which is when you kill someone because someone else has threatened harm if you don’t and there is no other reasonable option; 
  • sudden or extraordinary emergency, which is when you kill someone because an emergency has arisen and your action was the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency; 
  • intoxication, which is when you kill someone because you involuntarily became intoxicated; and 
  • automatism, which is when you kill someone without conscious volition, either through sane automatism (such as a concussion) or insane automatism (such as schizophrenia). 

Keep in mind that defences to murder/manslaughter are complex and often hard to prove. If you or a loved one killed someone in a way that was accidental or in some way justified, it’s important to speak to an experienced criminal solicitor as soon as possible.   

Expert criminal representation by leading Melbourne lawyers. 

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