All criminal prosecutions are initiated in the District Court with the exception of certain offences dealt with by the Special Criminal Court (generally offences against the State). All offences fall into one of three categories:
- Summary: an offence which can be dealt with by a judge sitting without a jury. Most road traffic offences (such as those relating to speeding, parking and insurance) and public order offences are always dealt with in the District Court.
- Indictable: an offence which must generally be tried before a judge and a jury.
- Some indictable offences can never be dealt with in the District Court – e.g. murder and rape. These are commenced in the District Court but are sent forward to a higher court for trial/sentence
- Other indictable offences can be dealt with in the District Court provided certain procedures are followed (see below).
- Hybrid: an offence which can be dealt with either in the District Court (summarily) or in a higher court (on indictment). The legislation will state the difference punishments on summary conviction and on indictment.