Affray is a serious common law offence which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment, pursuant to section 320 of the Crimes Act 1958.

Affray charges are generally difficult to prove, as the offence often involves multiple people and eventful circumstances. There are many questions to consider prior to making a decision to plead guilty to an Affray charge.

Was there a public disagreement which involved violence or the use of unjustified force? Were you involved in the fight? What was the level of your involvement? Were there other bystanders? Is there likely to be CCTV footage or a personal video recording of the argument?

It is important you seek advice from an experienced criminal lawyer at the earliest opportunity, as decisions you make in the early stages of your matter could be detrimental to your ongoing case.

Penalties the Court can impose for Affray:

A community corrections order, fine or adjourned undertaking for this offence can all be imposed with or without a criminal conviction. The ongoing consequences of a criminal conviction can be serious as some jobs require you to have no criminal convictions on your record prior to commencing employment. A conviction for Affray might jeopardise your job or make it difficult to obtain visas for overseas travel. Moreover a conviction for an offence of violence will almost certainly rule out certain career paths such as teaching and government employment options, including employment within the defence force. Violent offences may also result in sentences that include imprisonment even where an individual has no previous convictions.

The Offence of Affray:

Affray is a serious common law offence that is generally defined as the fighting of two or more persons in a public place that terrifies people of reasonable firmness and courage.

What Actions Might Constitute Affray?

Common examples of Affray include:

  • Getting into a fight in front of one or more people;
  • Yelling and threatening to punch someone;
  • Road rage; or
  • Participating in a riot.

What the Police Must Prove:

To find you guilty of Affray, the police must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You used force or were somehow involved in the use of force;
  • That force was against a person or persons; and
  • A bystander of reasonable firmness and courage might reasonably be expected to be terrified by your use of force or involvement in the use of force.

Should I Plead Guilty or Not Guilty?

You should always seek legal advice before deciding whether to plead guilty or not guilty, especially for a serious charge such as Affray.

There is no hard and fast rule to whether you should plead guilty or not guilty. Every matter and charge is different, both in the circumstances of the offence and the law that applies to it. Generally, your lawyer will advise you to either:

  • Plead not guilty if the prosecution may have difficulty proving the charge of Affray or if a defence is available; or
  • Plead guilty if the prosecution is likely to prove the charge of Affray.

Possible Defences for Affray:

The most common ways to defend this charge are:

  • To maintain your innocence if you did not commit the act;
  • To argue that you did not use or threaten to use violence;
  • To argue that a person of reasonable firmness would not have feared for their personal safety because of your conduct; or
  • To raise self-defence, necessity or duress as the reason for your conduct.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

Affray is an indictable offence but can be heard in either the Magistrates’ or County Courts depending on the seriousness of the circumstances.


If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.


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