Four Things You Probably Don’t Know Are Against the Law


If you’re an ordinary law-abiding citizen, chances are the possibility of committing a criminal offence never crosses your mind.

After all, you know when you’re breaking the law, right?

Well, if you’ve ever enjoyed playing in a fountain on a hot summer day with the kids, or spotted a friend in their car in the next lane over and cheerfully tooted your horn, guess what? You may just have broken one of the many obscure laws that exist in NSW.

Damaging fountains

In NSW, it is an offence if a person wilfully damages, defaces or even enters a fountain erected in public.

It is also an offence to cause any foreign material or substance to enter into any part of a fountain erected in a public place.

These offences fall under section 7 of the Summary Offences Act, and the possible penalty is a maximum fine of $440.

So even though we’re pretty sure no one has been charged in a long time, it is still technically against the law to sit on the edge of a public fountain and dip your feet into it, or throw a coin in and make a wish.

This is one of those laws that exists, but doesn’t really appear to reflect community attitudes and standards.

Perhaps it ought to be amended, at least to include an exception for making wishes!

Using offensive language in a public place

Did you know it is a crime to use offensive language in, near, or within hearing distance of a public place or a school?

It could cost you a fine of up to $660, or you might end up having to fulfil a community service order under section 4A of the Summary Offences Act NSW.

While we agree with the need to prohibit offensive language around schools and children, it isn’t so clear why it is a criminal offence to use such language in a public place.

Certainly offensive language should probably not be tolerated in public places, but perhaps the days of policing it, convicting someone for it, and legislating it as an offence ought to be over.

Of note, you can defend the charge of using offensive language in a public place if you can satisfy the court that you had a reasonable excuse for conducting yourself in that manner.

Is this the government’s way of allowing a reasonable temper tantrum in public, perhaps?

Splashing mud on bus passengers

Splashing a bus passenger with mud after driving through a puddle can cost you up to $2,200.

Under regulation 291-3 of the NSW road rules, a driver must take due care, by slowing down or stopping, not to splash mud on a person entering or leaving a bus, or any person waiting at a bus stop.

Oddly enough, splashing a person waiting at a pedestrian crossing might be acceptable!

Using your car horn inappropriately

Have you ever beeped your horn to alert a distracted driver stopped in front of you that a traffic light has turned green?

Or perhaps you have used your horn for a friendly beep to someone you know? These acts are actually against the road rules in NSW.

Regulation 224 of the road rules states that a driver must not use their horn unless it is necessary to warn another road user of the approach or position of their vehicle.

There are some good reasons for the rule, but drivers have become quite accustomed to using their horns with no real need over the last few years, and it’s rare to find someone who would hesitate to give an impatient beep.

However, this is hardly a road rule that is policed, and you would probably feel very unlucky to be fined!

There are a number of little-known laws that apply in NSW, whether or not people are actually still charged or fined for breaking them.

In some cases the laws are historical and date from a time when social standards were different, while in other cases, (such as the mud!) it’s difficult to understand the “why” of the law at all.

Either way, some of the above examples are probably quite unlikely to cause anyone serious legal issues!


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About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers, Sydney's leading firm of criminal and traffic defence lawyers.
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