The Magistrates Court operates under the Magistrates Court Act 1930 and hears both civil and criminal matters. Civil claims up to $250,000 are heard in the Magistrates Court.
ACT offences which carry a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment and Commonwealth offences with a maximum penalty of less than one year must be heard by Magistrates. These types of offences are referred to as summary offences. Offences with higher penalties than summary offences are referred to as indictable offences. Some indictable offences may be heard in either the Magistrates Court or the Supreme Court while more serious offences such as murder and serious drug offences must be heard in the Supreme Court. Before an indictable matter is referred to the Supreme Court for trial, a Magistrate is required to assess the evidence of the prosecution to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to require the defendant to face trial in the Supreme Court.
The Magistrates Court is located adjacent to the Supreme Court. There is a Chief Magistrate, six Magistrates and two Special Magistrates. The Magistrates have Associates who assist them in their work.