Criminal Lawyers for Offensive Language and Conduct – ss 4 and 4A Summary Offences Act 1988


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The use of offensive language and conduct in public might seem like a trivial offence, but these charges have the potential to result in a criminal record, which can have a lasting impact on your life and employment prospects.

However, having the right legal team on your side can make all the difference when it comes to avoiding a criminal record.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers is a specialist law firm which practices exclusively in criminal law. Our highly experienced defence team regularly wins ‘offensive language and conduct’ cases and can give you the expert advice and representation necessary to win your case and avoid a criminal record.

Your Options

Pleading Not Guilty

Before you can be found guilty of using offensive language or conduct, the prosecution needs to prove two things:

  • That you used language or acted in a way that is ‘offensive’
  • That the offensive language or conduct was able to be seen or heard in a public place or school

Offensive Language and Offensive Conduct are ‘summary offences’ which means that they are able to be finalised before a Magistrate in the Local Court.

Should you wish to plead ‘not guilty’, our experienced criminal lawyers can write to police and push for the charges against you to be dropped where they cannot prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt or where you have a valid legal defence.

If police still proceed, your case will eventually go to a defended hearing where police will need to prove the charge against you.

Our lawyers can help you share your side of the story in a compelling manner, and can rigorously question police and any witnesses to raise doubt about the evidence against you.

You can also call your own witnesses to back-up your testimony.

If police cannot prove the charge, the case will be thrown out of court.

The most commonly used defence for offensive language and offensive conduct is ‘reasonable excuse.’

This is where you can show to the court that you had a good reason for the language or conduct – for example, you might swear loudly after experiencing severe pain, or you may incorrectly believe that the beach you are bathing at is a nudist beach.

Some other general defences are listed below – please click on each defence for more information.

Pleading Guilty

Pleading guilty to using offensive language and conduct may be an option to consider where you do not wish to fight the charges against you.

In some cases, pleading guilty from the outset can be beneficial, as it will show the magistrate that you have accepted responsibility for your actions, which may result in a more lenient penalty.

If you’re thinking about pleading guilty to this offence, you may be wondering what kinds of penalties you could receive.

If you plead or are found guilty of using offensive language, you could face a fine of up to $660 or up to 100 hours community service.

If you plead or are found guilty of offensive conduct, you will be looking at a maximum penalty of $660 fine and/or 3 months imprisonment.

However, these are maximum penalties only. The magistrate will decide the appropriate penalty after considering all the facts and circumstances of your case.

With the assistance of our criminal law experts, you may be able to convince the magistrate to issue you with a section 10 dismissal.

This means that while you will be found guilty of the offence, it won’t appear on your criminal record, leaving you free to pursue your work and travel plans.

Our highly skilled lawyers frequently obtain section 10s for our clients in these types of matters, so you can count on us to secure the best possible penalty in your ‘offensive language and conduct’ case.

Why Sydney Criminal Lawyers?

At Sydney Criminal Lawyers, we have years of experience successfully defending hundreds of clients in offensive language and conduct matters.

Our team of expert defence lawyers specialises in having charges withdrawn at an early stage in the proceedings by carefully examining all the facts and evidence and writing to police highlighting problems with the prosecution case.

We fight hard for our clients in each and every case, and can assist you in raising any defences to your actions – for example, where you had a reasonable excuse for your conduct.
We can also assist if you simply want to accept the charges against you and enter a plea of ‘guilty.’

If you are found guilty of using offensive language or conduct, the offence will be recorded on your criminal record unless the magistrate orders a ‘section 10.’

At Sydney Criminal Lawyers, we have an excellent track record of getting our clients ‘sections 10s.’ This means that while you will be found guilty of the offence, you won’t receive a conviction on your criminal record.

So don’t delay – give us a call today on (02) 9261 8881 and book your FREE first conference with us to find out how we can help you avoid a conviction!

What Does the Law Say About Offensive Language and Conduct?

If you’ve been charged with offensive language or conduct, you may want to find out more about what the charge involves and how it may affect you.

You will find some information below about what constitutes ‘offensive language’ and ‘offensive conduct,’ as well as detailed information about what the prosecution needs to prove before you are found guilty of these offences.

However, if you’ve been charged with ‘offensive language’ or ‘offensive conduct,’ it’s important to speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer who will be able to advise you of your options in your particular case.

Give us a call today on to discuss your case with one of our experienced criminal lawyers.

What is ‘Offensive Language’ and ‘Offensive Conduct?’

‘Offensive language’ refers to situations where you use insulting language in or near a public place or school.

‘Offensive conduct’ refers to situations where you engage in conduct that would offend an ordinary person in or near a public place or school.

Examples of offensive conduct included exposing your private parts in public, skinny dipping at a public beach, or walking around your home naked when other members of the public can see you.

What does the prosecution need to prove?

To be found guilty of using offensive language, the prosecution has to prove that:

You used  language or conduct that is ‘offensive’:

There’s no list of words or conduct that is considered to be ‘offensive’ – instead, the court will determine whether or not something is offensive by using a ‘reasonable person’ test.

This means that they will consider whether or not a reasonable person would have found the language or conduct offensive.

A reasonable person can’t be someone who is overly sensitive or easily offended – to be offensive, the language must be seen to ‘wound the feelings, arouse anger or resentment or outrage in the mind of a reasonable person.’

It was able to be heard in a public place or school:

To be found guilty of offensive language or conduct, the incident must have been able to be heard or seen from a public place or a school.

Whether or not children were in the area will be a relevant consideration in determining whether the language or conduct was offensive.

A public place can include streets, public transport, car parks, alleyways, beaches and so on.

What penalties will I face if I plead guilty?

If you plead or are found guilty of using offensive language, the maximum penalty is a fine of $660 and/or 100 hours community service.

If you plead or are found guilty of offensive conduct, the maximum penalty is a fine of $660 and/or 3 months imprisonment.

However, statistics show that the most common penalty received for ‘offensive conduct’ was is  a fine of between $100 – $500, while for ‘offensive language,’ the most common penalty was also a fine between $100 – $300.

As discussed above, it is important to get the right legal team on your side where you have been charged with offensive language or conduct. This is because these offences have the ability to impact your criminal record – which can in turn affect your work and travel plans.

An experienced criminal lawyer can help you avoid a criminal record by persuading the magistrate to issue you with a section 10 dismissal – where no conviction is recorded on your criminal record.

Call us today on (02) 9261 8881 and speak to us about how we can help you avoid a criminal record!

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