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Summary Offences (NSW)

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

Offensive language

Offensive language is an offence that is committed when a person uses foul or offensive language. It is a fine-only offence but can still result in a conviction.

Offensive conduct

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

Verbal abuse

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

Disrespectful behaviour

A specific summary offence known as disrespectful behaviour applies to behaving in a disrespectful manner during Coronial proceedings. The offence is similar to the offence of contempt of court and may consist of refusing to stand, sit or bow when directed or addressing the Coroner or a judge inappropriately.

Failing to leave licensed premises

The offence of failing to leave a licensed premises occurs when a person remains in a licensed venue after being asked to leave. It is a fine-only offence.

Custody of a knife

It is an offence to have custody of a knife in a public place or school in New South Wales. This offence carries a penalty of two years imprisonment.

Custody of a graffiti implement

It is an offence to have custody of a graffiti implement. This offence occurs when a person has in their possession an item that is intended for use writing graffiti on a property of building. It is also an offence to possess a graffiti implement.

Summary offences involving graffiti

In New South Wales there are a number of offences relating to graffiti. These are summary offences which carry a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment.

Concealing a birth

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

Spiking drink or food

It is an offence to spike the drink or food of another person with an intoxicating substance without their knowledge.

Peep or pry

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

If you require legal advice or representation in relation to summary offences or in any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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