How long do you have to wait after an Incident for a Criminal Charge in NSW?

Indictable offences

There is no ‘limitation period’ for ‘indictable offences’ that is, more serious criminal offences that can be dealt with in the District Court. This means that a charge can be brought against you anytime, even after several decades the alleged incident to have occurred. For example, ‘serious sex offences’ are frequently charged many years or decades after their alleged commission.

Summary offences

There is however statutory limitation for ‘summary offences’ that is, less serious offences that can be dealt with in the Local Court. These offences come with a maximum penalty of up to two years imprisonment.

The law states that the police must generally bring these charges within 6 months from the date of the alleged incident to have occurred.

The strength of the evidence against you will not matter once the maximum time period has elapsed, you cannot be charged.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are some exceptions to this rule, in circumstances as follows:

Where the offence is an indictable offence but can be dealt with summarily or if the offence caused the death of a person. The time period can be longer to up to two years from when the offence was alleged to have been committed, or six months after the conclusion of a coronial inquest relating to the death of a person.

In relation to traffic offences, for example- where you have received a penalty notice and you have elected to have the penalty dealt with by a court, then the offence may be commenced no later than 12 months from when the offence was alleged to have been committed.

At Criminal Lawyers Sydney, our lawyers always check with the police whether they have brought a summary offence within the limitation period as this could mean that your charge could be dismissed if it was filed outside of that period for the relevant offence.

If you are not sure whether you have been charged with a summary offence or an indictable offence, call Criminal Lawyers Sydney on (02) 9215 8619 to book your free first appointment and speak to one of our senior lawyers.