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What is the difference between the Local and District Court?

The difference between the Local and District Court, is that the District Court is a higher court that hears more serious matters. For example, if you plead guilty to drug possession, you will be sentenced in the Local Court. However, if you are charged with a large drug supply, your matter will be heard by the District Court.

Magistrate or Judge?

A key difference between the Local and District Court is the judicial officer who hears the matters. In the Local Court, your matter will be before a magistrate. In the District Court, your matter will be before a judge.

Why is my serious charge in the Local Court?

Despite these differences, all criminal charges will initially begin in the Local Court. Serious charges will eventually end up in the District Court. However they will start in the Local Court where the magistrate will automatically order the brief of evidence.

For example, if you are charged with sexual assault your first court appearance will be in the Local Court. The charge will then go through the ‘Early Appropriate Guilty Plea’ (EAGP) process. During this process the evidence against you will be provided to you and your lawyer. The charges will then be certified by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Your lawyer will then have an opportunity to negotiate your charges with the DPP. Once the EAGP process is complete, you will need to tell the magistrate whether you wish to plead guilty or plead not guilty. The magistrate will record this, and then send your matter to the District Court for either trial or sentence.

For less serious matters, such as common assault, the matter will finalise in the Local Court by way of sentence or defended hearing. For these matters, the only way to review the evidence against you is to enter a plea of not guilty.

We can help

Our lawyers appear regularly in both complex and minor matters in Local and District Courts throughout Newcastle, Sydney and New South Wales.

We are committed to providing you with a first class service, while ensuring you remain informed and consulted every step of the way.

Contact us today on 0421 700 497 for a free initial consultation.