The Magistrates Court is the first level of the Queensland Courts system. Most criminal cases are first heard, in some form, in this court. Most civil actions are also heard here.
A person charged with a criminal offence must be brought before the Magistrates Court as a soon as possible after the charge is laid. The magistrate, who presides over the court, will decide whether there is enough evidence for the person to face trial and, if so, which court should hear the case. The magistrate may commit the case to the District or Supreme Court depending on the seriousness of the offence.
The Magistrates Court can deal with less serious offences (summary offences) such as traffic infringements, minor offences such as shoplifting or disorderly behaviour, and less serious offences involving burglary, assault, fraud and drugs.
Civil cases can be dealt with by the Magistrates Court if the amount in dispute is $150,000 or less. If the amount is greater than $150,000, the District or Supreme Court will deal with the case.
The Magistrates Court also deals with:
- some minor family law matters (although most go to the Family Court)
- some other Commonwealth matters, such as those covered by the Customs Act 1901, the Social Security Act 1991 and the Taxation Act 1953
- most domestic violence matters
- applications for child-protection orders.