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Commencement of Court Matters


Generally, a summons is a document notifying a person of a court hearing on a specified date. In relation to a defendant, it is a summons to attend court to answer the charge as contained in an Information and filed with the Court by prosecution [see Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) ss 22 and 103; Magistrates Court Rules 1992 r 27.01; Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 57]. The hearing date selected on the summons will be no less than 1 month and no more than 4 months from the date of issue of the summons, or if the Court will not be sitting at that location within that period, the next sitting date of the Court [Magistrates Court Rules 1992 r 27A.04]. Failure to attend court on the date of the hearing may result in the matter(s) proceeding in the defendant’s absence or the issue of a warrant for his or her arrest [see Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) ss 58 and 103; s 62A for failure to answer bail; s 62BA for failure to lodge written plea of guilty or to appear].

The number of summonses issued by SA Police bearing the same hearing date and location must not be more than 20 [Magistrates Court Rules 1992 r 27A.06]. However, during a declared major emergency under secion 23(1) of the Emergency Management Act 2004, the number of summonses issued by SA Police bearing the same hearing date and location must not be more than 10 [Magistrates Court Rules 1992 r 27A.07].

A summons is usually served by a police officer or an officer or employee of a public authority, who either gives it personally to the person to whom it is directed or leaves it with someone else who appears to be aged 16 years and over at the person's last or most usual address [Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 27]. A summons can also be served:

  • Via post;
  • Via fax;
  • Via email, although note the additional requirement of access;
  • Via another electronic form, such as through the provision of an internet link from which the information can be obtained or downloaded; or
  • Via the provision of a USB or other such device which is then provided to the person personally, via registered post, or left at their last known address with someone aged 16 years or over.

See section 27 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA).

If serving a summons via electronic means, it must be ascertained that the person receiving the summons has the means to download/access and (if required) print the document(s) [Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 27(2)].

A summons to a debtor may be issued for unpaid fines and requires the debtor to attend the Fines Payment Unit in a local Magistrates Court (see Expiable offences). A witness or the holder of documents needed as evidence for a trial may receive a summons (a subpoena) to either attend the court registry (to hand over documents) or to appear to give evidence to the Court on a specified date [see Magistrates Court Act 1991 (SA) s 20; Magistrates Court Rules 1992 r 10; District Court Act 1991 (SA) ss 25 and 26; Supreme Court Act 1935 (SA) s 35].

The forms used pursuant to the Magistrates Court Rules 1992 are online (click here).


An Information is a document outlining the details of the offence as charged [see Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 100] and may include summary, minor indictable and major indictable offence(s) [see s 102(2)]. The Information must state the category of offence for each charge and whether it is a major indictable, minor indictable or summary offence [see Magistrates Court Rules 1992 r 9.08]. A person can be charged for a number of offence(s) on the same information so long as they relate to the same circumstances or a series of circumstances of similar character [see Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 102(1)].

The Information must be filed with the Court by prosecution as soon as possible after it is made [see Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 101(3)]. Court proceedings commence upon the filing of the Information in court (for matters committed to the District or Supreme Court for trial) [see Major indictable offences]. The accused must be provided with a copy of the Information on or before the first court appearance [see Criminal Procedure Act 1921 (SA) s 105; Magistrates Court Rules 1992 r 19.09].

Commencement of Court Matters  :  Last Revised: Mon May 21st 2012