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Offensive Behaviour Charges in Queensland

Updated on Nov 08, 2022 4 min read 844 views Copy Link

Michelle Makela

Published in May 29, 2015 Updated on Nov 08, 2022 4 min read 844 views

Offensive Behaviour Charges in Queensland

Offensive behaviour in Queensland is governed by the Summary Offences Act 2005. The offence falls under Division 1 of the Act relating to the quality of community use of public places.  These offences originated in 2003 under the Vagrants, Gaming and Other offences Act 1931 (now repealed), which made it an offence to behave in a disorderly manner where the behaviour was likely to interfere with the public’s passage through, or enjoyment of, a public place.

With the introduction of the Summary Offences Act 2005, offences relating to offensive behaviour were redefined.

These offences now include:

  • public nuisance
  • urinating in a public place
  • wilful exposure
  • begging in a public place, and
  • being drunk in a public place.

There was previously a need for the offending behaviour to be directed at another person. The change in the wording of the Act now has the effect that an offence may take place even when there is no intention to create a nuisance.

A person suspected of committing one of these offences will be arrested or summonsed to attend the Magistrates Court.

Public nuisance

The public nuisance laws are designed to target people who behave in a disorderly way, an offensive way, a threatening way, or a violent way.  This includes the use of offensive, obscene, or abusive language, or a person who uses language in a threatening manner. A controversial aspect of public nuisance laws is that it is not necessary for a person to make a complaint about the behaviour of another person before a police officer can lay charges. The controversy lies in whether the behaviour is offensive if no complaints from the public about the behaviour have been made.  The penalties for public nuisance normally result in a fine; however, a person can receive up to six months imprisonment depending on the nature of the offence.

Urinating in a public place, and wilful exposure

It is an offence for someone to urinate in a public place, and this act may also result in a wilful exposure charge depending on the circumstances of the offence.  A wilful exposure charge results when a person in a public place exposes their genitals unless they have a reasonable excuse to do so. This offence may also arise even if you are not in a public place, but near a public place, and the exposure can be seen from the public place. The penalties for these offences are normally just a fine. However, if the wilful exposure has an element of aggravation such as the exposure was designed to offend or embarrass another person, then a conviction could result in a year of imprisonment.

Begging in a public place

It is an offence:

  • to beg in a public place for money or goods, or
  • to procure, cause, or encourage a child to beg for money, or goods, or
  • to solicit donations of money or goods. 

There are exemptions if the person is authorised by a registered charity to solicit donations for the charity, or is authorised by a local government to busk in a public place. A conviction for begging in a public place can result in a 6-month term of imprisonment. Therefore, if you are wanting to busk in a public place, it is important to contact the local council and obtain the required permits.

Being drunk in a public place

If you are drunk in a public place you may be charged with an offence. This includes walking from one drinking establishment to another, or waiting for a cab ride home. You may also be charged with public nuisance depending on the situation, and the events that occurred leading up to the arrest.

It is also not uncommon for resisting arrest charges to accompany public nuisance or being drunk in a public place charges due to the intoxication of the person, and the belief they weren’t doing anything wrong or causing any trouble. Resisting arrest charges can also lead to charges relating to assaulting a police officer, both of which carry heavy penalties and the possibility of imprisonment, whereas a charge for being drunk in a public place on its own will only result in a fine. 

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

Published in

May 29, 2015

Michelle Makela

National Practice Manager

Michelle Makela is a Legal Practice Director at Go To Court Lawyers. She holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master of Criminology. She was admitted to practice in 2006. Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. 
Michelle Makela

Michelle Makela

National Practice Manager

Michelle Makela is a Legal Practice Director at Go To Court Lawyers. She holds a Juris Doctor, a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) and a Master of Criminology. She was admitted to practice in 2006. Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning. 

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