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Police & Criminal Law

On this page

State Case Lists

A daily list of the cases to be heard in these State Courts. The list is updated late in the day if you wish to check the list for the following day.

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Types of Crime

Summary Offences

  • Charges are tried by a magistrate in the Local Court
  • Less serious offences than those tried by a judge and jury ("indictable offences")
  • Penalties are less severe
  • You cannot insist on a jury trial
  • Proceedings for a summary offence must be started within 6 months of the alleged offence

Examples of Summary Offences are DWI, smoking marijuana, offensive conduct or language

Indictable Offences

  • Charges are tried by a judge and jury
  • Extremely serious charges such as murder are tried in the Supreme Court
  • Other indictable offences are heard in the District Court
  • There is no time limit for when charges must be laid for an indictable offence

Examples of Indictable Offences are murder, robbery, malicious wounding and dangerous driving.

Law Handbook - Criminal Law chapter of  The Law Handbook.

Your Rights, Criminal Law Basics

  1. You are innocent until proven guilty.
  2. The prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
  3. Silence can rarely be used to suggest guilt.
  4. A person who has been acquitted cannot be tried again for the same offence. (the double jeopardy rule)
  5. A person charged with a summary offence under the Summary Offences Act may ask the police for further details of the charges (for example; where, when and how the police claim the offence occurred).
  6. If the police fail to provide these details, then the Court must either adjourn the charge until they are supplied, or dismiss the charge.
  7. A request for particulars should be made in writing at least 14 days before the hearing.

Common Types of Crimes

Assault

Can include threats (real) of violence or where a victim is struck without their consent. More serious kinds of assault carry bigger penalties.

Stealing

Can include instances where you find something and keep it, "borrowing" money without consent, receiving stolen property and obtaining money or goods by false pretences (usually telling lies).

A person charged with shoplifting can be searched by a police officer.

Store staff who believe on reasonable grounds that somebody has stolen from the store can detain the suspect until the police arrive.

Shoplifting is usually punished by a fine, but repeated offences may lead to a jail sentence.

Bail

All applications for bail in NSW are governed by the Bail Act 1978. This applies whether you are charged with an offence under the State law or Commonwealth law.

The Act involves a number of steps. Firstly, are you in the group entitled to bail or are you in the group (murder for example) where bail will only be granted in exceptional circumstances. Next, is it to be presumed that you should be given bail or are you in the group where it is presumed that you should not be granted bail. Watch out for the exceptions in the Act.

Once you have worked those things out, you then look at Section 32. This lists all the things to be weighed up in deciding whether or not to grant bail. These include the chances of the person appearing in Court if granted bail, the effect of gaol on them and the risk that they may commit further offences or interfere with witnesses if they are out on bail.

If you are in custody and your case is coming up, then it is important that you get urgent legal advice from your own solicitor, legal aid or the duty solicitor at the Court.


Acts, Regulations, Rules & Forms

Are you looking for detailed information like this, or contact details for any of the bodies mentioned on this page. If so, then start on our Criminal Law for Lawyers page.

If it isn't there, then start on our Finding Detailed Legal Information page.

Please read our warning on that page "Be careful using these resources".

The Law is not always as straightforward as it appears. We have not included any information about when and how to use that information or any traps. We assume that the Lawyers will know this.

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Have you been a Victim Of Crime?

If you have been the victim of a crime, then you may be eligible for assistance from Victims Services Victims Support Line Victims of Crime Vcitims Access Line (24 hours) (02) 8688 5511 or 1800 633 063 (toll free) .

You may also have other legal rights against the offender. For this you will need to see a lawyer.

Avoiding Trouble

  • If the police suspect you of having committed an offence, do not consent or agree for the police to do anything without speaking to your lawyer first.
  • The same applies to answering questions, participating in a record of interview or appearing in an identification parade. You must though give your name and address and, in some cases, information about the identity of the driver/owner of a vehicle.
  • When the police say they just want to ask a couple of questions to eliminate you from their enquiries or to clear something up - that is often not what they really have in mind.
  • The Prosecutor decides whether to drop criminal charges, not the victim.
  • Be polite and respectful of the police.
  • If stopped by the police, stay calm and in control of your words, body language, and emotions.
  • Don't resist a police officer, even if you think you are innocent.
New South Wales 1  crime police criminal law charged summons jail sentence guilty offence fine victime of crime legal aid prisoner

Need Advice From A Lawyer?

If you have been served with a summons or have been requested to attend a police station for any reason, it is best you seek advice from a lawyer.

It is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible - don't leave it to the last minute.

Smart Guy Needs a Lawyer

Smart Guy Needs a Lawyer is a publication aimed at young people who may need to attend court or see a lawyer. It explains how young people should choose a lawyer and what to expect when they see them.

On the spot fines

On the spot fines for things like parking and traffic offences, public transport offences, littering or drinking in a public place are dealt with under the Infringements System. For information on how this works, how to dispute a fine or to ask for time to pay are explained at the State Debt Recovery Office web site.

Court fines

Information on how to pay a fine, what happens if you don't pay it one time, how to ask for an extension of time to pay or to do community service instead is available at Local Court website .

Police

New South Wales Police

www.police.nsw.gov.au

Emergency 000
Police Assistance Line and general enquiries: 131 444
Customer assistance unit: 1800 622 571


Crime Stoppers

www.nsw.crimestoppers.com.au

1800 333 000

Australian Federal Police

www.afp.gov.au

(02) 9286 4000

Police Check

A National Criminal History Record Check or a 'police check' provides a summary of a person's criminal history. It is sometimes requested by organisations as one part of their process to ensure the integrity of their staff or volunteers.

National Criminal History Record Check Fees and charges apply.

Prisons and Prisoners


Appearing In Court

  • When required to attend Court, you should dress appropriately.
  • Men should wear a suit and tie if possible, and ladies, a smart suit or dress. Work uniforms should be avoided, if possible. Shorts, jeans, thongs, slacks and short dresses should be avoided at all costs.
  • Arrive at Court on time. Plan your arrival in advance, allowing extra time for public transport delays, or traffic problems. Aim to arrive at least ten (10) minutes early and inform the Court official in the foyer of the Court of your arrival, especially if you are representing yourself (i.e. you do not have a lawyer).
  • Loud talking or whispering whilst court is in session is unacceptable
  • Turn off your mobile phones and/or pager before entering Court premises
  • You must always show respect to the judicial officer at all times. Judicial officers are addressed as "Your Honour".
  • You should bow slightly upon entering, and leaving a Court when it is in session (see how the lawyers and staff do it).

Sentencing

Often it can be hard to understand why a penalty seems to be too light or too hard when we read or hear about it in the media.

Judge for yourself: A Guide to Sentencing in Australia explains in plain English what goes on in the background in deciding the appropriate sentence.

What factors does the court take into account? How much discretion does the judicial officer have? To what extent is the discretion limited? Why is a particular penalty chosen? Why a non-custodial sentence rather than imprisonment? Why a minimum sentence of three years for a bashing rather than, say, ten years? Is the sentence going to be effective? How will we know?

Some Government Bodies

Jury Duty

The Jury Service web site answers all the frequently asked questions and gives detailed instructions as to what you must do.

Applying for Legal Aid

New South Wales 3  crime police criminal law charged summons jail sentence guilty offence fine victime of crime legal aid prisoner New South Wales 2  crime police criminal law charged summons jail sentence guilty offence fine victime of crime legal aid prisoner

Character references

A character reference helps to show the court that people in your daily life think highly of you and that you are a person of good character.

It shows the court that you have good qualities, are not likely to offend again if given a second chance and that a more lenient penalty (sentence) may be appropriate.

  • Character and other references (Note: discuss any special reasons why a conviction should not be recorded. This is similar to a "spent conviction order" referred to in this WA article)