What are the penalties for an offensive language offence?

Have you been charged with an offensive language offence?

Offensive language offences fall under the Summary Offences Act, and they are considered criminal offences.

If you have been charged with one of these offences, you will need to seek legal representation. It is possible to defend an offensive language charge, but you will need the help of a specialist criminal lawyer, who is experienced in dealing with this sort of offence.

If you use “offensive” language within hearing of a public place or school, you can be charged with an offensive language offence.

Using the word ‘fuck’ or ‘cunt’ will normally be considered to fall under the definition of offensive language.

However, the cases are equivocal about whether ‘shit’ or ‘arsehole’ can constitute offensive language and it will depend on the context.

A public place is defined as an area which is open and accessible to the public without restrictions.

You don’t need to actually be in the public place, if you use offensive language within hearing distance of a public place or school, you can potentially be charged with an offence.

Offensive language is not generally considered a serious offence, but there are a few possible penalties that you might face, including:

  • A maximum fine of up to $660
  • A maximum prison term of up to three months
  • Up to 100 hours of community service work
  • A good behaviour bond
  • An intensive corrections order
  • A suspended sentence

If you have been charged with offensive language, you do not necessarily need to plead guilty.

There are a number of defences to an offensive language charge, which can help to reduce your penalty, or allow you to avoid a criminal conviction altogether.

A successful prosecution depends on the police proving that you have acted in a manner beyond how a ‘reasonable person’ would act in the same situation.

This can be difficult to prove, and it can be a reasonable defence to demonstrate that you had a valid excuse for using offensive language.

As the standards of a ‘reasonable person’ vary, there is a certain amount of interpretation involved in deciding whether or not your behaviour falls under the definition of ‘unreasonable’ or criminal.

Other defences that might be successful include duress, necessity and self-defence. It is a good idea to speak to your criminal lawyer to find out what the most appropriate defence is in your particular circumstances.

A section 10 is another possibility if you have been charged with an offensive language offence.

A section 10 is where there is a finding of guilt, but no criminal conviction is recorded.

Whether or not you get a section 10 for your offensive language charge depends largely on the discretion of the magistrate.

If you get a section 10, you will not face any penalties or have a conviction recorded.

Having a criminal conviction can affect your chances of getting employment in the future and limit your travel options.

Having a good criminal lawyer can help increase your chances of getting a section 10.

If you are facing an offensive language offence, it is important that you seek the advice of an experienced criminal lawyer.

A good lawyer can help reduce the chances of incurring a harsh penalty, or even allow you to avoid conviction entirely.

At Sydney Criminal Lawyers, we are highly experienced with offensive language offences, and we can help you get the best possible outcome from your summary offences case.

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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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