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Summary Offences In Sydney

Summary offences are minor criminal offences that are dealt with by magistrates in the Local Court or Children’s Court. This page outlines some common summary offences in New South Wales. Summary offences in Sydney are contained in the Summary Offences Act 1988 and are all punishable by short periods of imprisonment, or by a fine only.

Summary offence or indictable offence?

A summary offence is a minor offence that can only be dealt with in the Local Court or Children’s Court. Examples include most traffic offences and public disorder offences such as offensive language and offensive conduct.

Many indictable offences can be finalised in the Local Court with the consent of the defence and prosecution. These include assault, aggravated assault and larceny.

Strictly indictable offences are offences that can only be dealt with in the higher courts. These include murder, terrorism and rape. These matters begin in the Local Court (or Children’s Court if the accused is a juvenile) but are subsequently committed to a higher court for finalisation if the matter is going to proceed.

Offensive language

Offensive language is an offence that is committed when a person uses offensive language in public and another person is offended. It is a fine-only offence but can still result in the recording of a criminal conviction.

Offensive conduct

Offensive conduct is a summary offence that occurs when a person behaves in an offensive manner in a public place. This may involve public nudity, sex in public, fighting or anti-social behaviour. Offensive conduct can attract a penalty of up to three months imprisonment.

Verbal abuse

There is no specific criminal offence of verbal abuse in New South Wales but this behaviour can give rise to other legal consequences, including Apprehended Violence Orders and charges of using offensive language or offensive behaviour.

Fail to leave licensed premises

The offence of failing to leave a licensed premises occurs when a person remains in a licensed venue after being requested by staff to leave. It is a fine-only offence, like many summary offences in Sydney.

Custody of a knife

It is a summary offence in Sydney for a person to have custody of a knife in public or school in New South Wales. This offence carries two years imprisonment.

Custody of a graffiti implement

It is a summary offence in Sydney for a person to have custody of a graffiti implement. This offence occurs when a person possesses an item for the purpose of writing graffiti on a property of building. It is also a criminal offence to possess a graffiti implement.

Summary Offences Involving Graffiti

There are a number of summary offences in Sydney relating to graffiti. These carry a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment.

Concealing A Birth

In New South Wales, the offence of concealment of a birth is punishable by imprisonment for a maximum of two years. A person can be found guilty of this offence if they dispose of a dead child’s body in order to conceal the birth.

Spiking Drink Or Food

In New South Wales, it is an offence to spike a person’s drink or food with an intoxicating substance without their knowledge.

Peep Or Pry

It is an offence for a person to peep or pry on another person in or near a building without a lawful excuse. This is a summary offence in Sydney that is punishable by a fine or imprisonment for up to three months.

If you require legal advice or representation in relation to summary offences in Sydney or in any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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