Criminal Law Sentencing in South Australia: The Basics

By James Cobiac


One of the inquiries frequently made of a criminal lawyer is that of sentence. In effect, clients are understandably concerned with the likely penalty or penalty ranges if they are convicted of a criminal offence in South Australia. This post has a broad look at some of the considerations in relation to sentence. For more information, call Culshaw Miller Criminal Lawyers today.

When a Court considers the sentence it should adopt in relation to a convicted offender under the criminal law of South Australia it will consider the provisions of the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988 (SA). Starting first with an offender who pleads guilty to an offence without being committed by the Court to trial there are a number of important provisions within the Act that the Court will have regard to. Because pleading guilty to an offence saves the Court considerable time and resources, and by extension saves society considerable expense, the entering of a guilty plea without trial can, and often will, result in a reduction of the sentence imposed by the Court. The exact amount of the reduction will be dependent on how early into the process of proceedings the guilty plea is entered. If a plea is entered within the first 4 weeks after the defendant first appears in Court to answer the charge, the Court may reduce the sentence by up to 40%. If the matter has been listed for trial and the defendant pleads guilty, and could not have plead guilty due to factors that were outside of their control, the Court may reduce the sentence by up to 30%. The amount reduced is largely dependant upon timing and the nature of the provisions to which the Court may have regard.

The nature of the offence and past criminal history will also be taken into account when the Court undertakes sentencing. The Court is guided by the Act to only impose a term of imprisonment in certain circumstances. For example, the defendant must have demonstrated themselves to be a risk of harm to others, or to have a proclivity to commit a serious offence against another person if they were excused of a term of imprisonment. Further, the Court will also consider any previous offences committed by the Defendant and any other circumstances it believes are relevant to the offending behaviour. There are a number of factors that will ordinarily tend toward the showing of mercy by the Court to an offender, and these include youth, good character, the societal imperative of rehabilitation and other factors including matters such as employment. It is important to note that sentencing is considered a balancing act; it is often said to a defendant in sentence that “…the sentencing process is not all about you.”. General deterrence is considered a particularly weighty consideration and often, factors in favour of the imposition of a sentence other than one of immediate imprisonment will be outweighed by the general need to deter others from criminal behavior.

If you’ve been charged with a criminal offence in Adelaide it is important that you seek legal advice from a criminal defence lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances. Culshaw Miller Criminal lawyers are available 24/7 to provide criminal law advice or the attendance of one of our solicitors. You can arrange an appointment on 08 8464 0033 or telephone 0418 421 153 for urgent advice.