What is a “Charge sheet”
This article endeavors to provide the reader with a brief understand of what a charge sheet is. This will be achieved by reviewing:
- the requirements for a charge sheet (including form, contents, and service); and
- Should I attend court?
In criminal law matters, a charge-sheet is a form that is used and issued by Victoria Police. The purpose of a charge-sheet is to notify a person of criminal charges being issued against them. That person then becomes known as the ‘accused’ or the ‘defendant’. The charge-sheet also acts as the official commencement of criminal proceedings. Meaning, for criminal proceedings to start, the charge sheet must be filed. If a charge-sheet has not been filed, no criminal proceedings have commenced.
A charge-sheet is required by law to satisfy certain rules. The Criminal Procedure Act (Vic) and Magistrates’ Criminal Procedure Rules (Vic) stipulate these rules. Specifically, a charge-sheet must be in due form, contain specific information and may be subject to filing time restrictions.
The “Form” simply refers to what must be written in the charge-sheet and the document’s format. For instance, a charge-sheet is a “Form 1”, whereas a charge-sheet and summons is a “Form 3” (discussed below). Furthermore, the Form also refers to additional charge-sheet requirements (such as the requirement to be signed and filed in the appropriate court). “The Form” is therefore a holistic requirement that needs to be satisfied.
The contents of a charge-sheet must contain information on:
- what the charges against the accused are and when the offence is alleged to have been committed;
- what Act and relevant section of the Act that is alleged to have been breached;
- the name and signature of the informant (police officer) issuing the charge; and
- when the matter is listed for hearing in the Magistrates’ Court (among other things).
For summary offences, a charge-sheet must be filed (proceedings commenced) within 12 months’ after the date of the alleged offence is alleged to have occurred. If filing occurs outside of this time period, it is possible to have the charges withdrawn or rejected by the court.
For indictable offences, criminal proceedings can be commenced at any time. This is regardless of the time period that has passed from the date of the alleged offending and the date of the charges/filing being initiated.
My Charge-Sheet is Missing Some of the Above Requirements or Contains Incorrect Information. Does this Matter?
This depends on what information is omitted from and/or is incorrect in the charge-sheet. In most cases, if the Court is of the view that the omitted or incorrect information can be rectified, without prejudice to the accused, the Court will proceed with the matter and allow for the information to be rectified (i.e. allowing for the correction or inclusion of the section of an Act if the charge is clear and unambiguous to the offence in reference).
However, if a charge-sheet has not been signed, served or filed correctly (specifically if no informant signature or registrar has signed). Then it may be possible to make a submission to the Court to have the matter withdrawn due to incorrect format and non-compliance with the rules.
I Believe I Should not be Charged and that the Charges Against me are False. What can I do?
It is not possible to have the matter withdrawn on the grounds that you believe the charges against you are false. This means that you will be refuting the allegations and will, in most instances, be proceeding to contest the charge/s. At which point, you should speak to your lawyer or obtain legal advice about your matter.
It is important to note that any decision to have a matter withdrawn or discontinued, rests in the discretion of the Magistrate. In some cases, it may be possible to speak with Victoria Police to have the matter withdrawn.
Should I Attend Court on the Date Listed in the Charge-Sheet?
You should always attend Court on the listed date, even if the charge-sheet indicates that you are not required to attend. The reason to attend, regardless of what is indicated, is to show the Court that you are serious about the matter. It also provides you with an opportunity to be involved in your matter from the start.
The information on this website is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for individual advice about your particular circumstances.
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