With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, it’s no doubt that police will once again be out in force patrolling the streets.
Every year, police arrest a large number of people – many for alcohol-related offences.
However, there are things you can do to avoid trouble whilst celebrating the new year.
We’ve compiled our top ten tips here.
1. Look after your mates
Most of us have been in a group where one or more of us have become a little too intoxicated.
If this happens to one of your mates, it’s important not to ignore them or leave them behind – all for the sake of getting in to a bar or club.
If one of your friends becomes too intoxicated, ensure that they have a safe way to get home.
Stay with them until they are feeling better – or at least make sure that they get into a taxi and advised the taxi driver of the address.
A good mate is one that stays with a friend in need when it might be a lot more fun to leave them behind and keep partying.
2. Drink and be merry – not smashed!
Year after year, police and paramedics are forced to describe the dangerous effects of extreme intoxication.
They deal with situations where individuals place themselves and others at risk through excessive drunkenness.
By all means drink and be merry, but perhaps the most enjoyable (and memorable) nights are those where the drinking doesn’t result in complete loss of control and blackouts, and the associated risks.
3. Move on when asked to do so by police
If police reasonably suspect that you are acting in a drunk and disorderly manner in a public place, they may ask you to ‘move on.’
You may be issued with a ‘move on’ direction if police observe that your speech, co-ordination, behaviour or balance are affected by alcohol or drugs.
If asked to do so, you must leave the area and not return for the specified period.
The maximum period for which you can be asked to leave a particular public place for is six hours.
If you don’t comply with a police officer’s request to move on, you could be fined $220 on the spot.
Furthermore, if you return to the designated area within the specified period, you could cop a fine of $1650.
If you are asked to move-on, your best-bet is not to make an issue of it and to go to an alternative location to celebrate – otherwise, you may put a downer on what might otherwise have been a fantastic night.
If, on the other hand, you feel strongly that police do not have grounds to issue you with a move-on direction, and you refuse to move-on, you can challenge that fine later by electing to go to court.
However, this can be a lengthy and time-consuming process.
4. Be wary of what you say and how you act
If you use offensive language in a public place, you may be give an on-the-spot infringement or even charged with the offence of ‘using offensive language’ and taken to court.
There’s no list of words that are deemed to be ‘offensive’.
Rather, the courts will determine whether or not the language used was offensive by considering the standards of ordinary people in the same circumstances.
You may also be charged with ‘offensive conduct’ if you behave in an offensive manner.
Examples of ‘offensive conduct’ include urinating in public, skinny dipping or otherwise exposing your private parts in a public area.
The maximum penalty for using offensive language is a fine of $660 and/or 100 hours of community service, while the maximum fine for offensive conduct is a fine of $660 and/or 3 months imprisonment.
So although spirits are high and the alcohol is running freely, it’s best to be a little careful about your behaviour and use of language when out in public.
After all, who needs the hassle!
5. Be aware of what can happen if you’re intoxicated in public
Though the offence of public intoxication no longer exists in NSW, police have the power to detain you for being intoxicated in a public place in certain situations.
You may be detained if you are found to be behaving in a disorderly manner, or in a manner that may cause injury to yourself, another person or property.
You may also be detained where you are in need of physical protection due to the state of your intoxication.
In these situations, police are obliged to release you into the care of a responsible person as soon as possible.
But if a responsible person is not available, or if you are acting violently, police may hold you in a police cell or another place of detention.
It’s therefore better to just head home if you feel that you or your mates have had a few too many.
6. If you are placed under arrest, don’t fight back
It’s better to comply with the arrest, even if you disagree with the reasons why police are arresting you.
This is because you may be charged with the offence of ‘resist arrest’ if you struggle, attempt to escape or otherwise hinder police whilst they are trying to arrest you or another person.
‘Resisting arrest’ carries a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment, and/or a fine of $1,100.
You could also be charged with the offence of ‘assault police’ if you try to fight back.
An assault is where you act in a way that causes a person to fear ‘unlawful personal violence.’
This is a more serious offence which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment, of 7 years imprisonment where the police officer suffers ‘actual bodily harm.’
If police have conducted an unlawful arrest, our experienced criminal lawyers can raise this with the police and use this as a basis to have the charges dropped.
You may additionally be able to make a complaint to the NSW Ombudsman and seek damages for unlawful imprisonment and assault.
7. If a friend is in trouble with police, film it!
You are legally allowed to film police in a public place.
If police approach you, it’s usually best for a friend to film as the quality will usually turn out better from a distance and you won’t risk being accused of ‘resisting arrest’ when using your own camera.
Filming police will often deter them from acting outside their powers.
It can also be used as powerful evidence to prove that the arrest was unlawful or that excessive force was used.
Camera footage has even been used in one reported case to prove that as many as 17 police officers lied about the arrest of one particular lady and her two stepsons.
In that case, police viciously assaulted the lady while arresting her, then charged her with assaulting police and resisting arrest.
Unknown to police, CCTV cameras filmed the entire incident which showed that police had no lawful reason to arrest her and that, while arresting her, they struck her several times.
Police all gave similar statements to the effect that the lady assaulted them first – which was completely untrue.
In the end, police were forced to drop the charges and one of the male officers was convicted of assaulting the lady.
The lady is now seeking compensation for her injuries.
This is an example of how the importance of camera footage cannot be underestimated.
8. Know your rights when it comes to being searched
On the topic of searches, it’s important to remember that police need to have a good reason (also known as a ‘reasonable suspicion’) when it comes to searching you.
In other words, police can’t search you randomly, or because you look nervous.
If you feel that police are attempting to search you unlawfully, you can ask, ‘on what grounds am I being searched?’
To learn more about searches, feel free to read one of our blogs on the topic.
9. Don’t refuse a breath test
It’s common knowledge that RBTs and RDTs are out in force over the holiday period.
While most of us enjoy a few drinks over the festive season, it’s important to ensure that you undergo breath tests when asked to do so by police.
If you refuse a breath test, or fail to provide a sample when asked to do so, you may be charged with an offence which carries the same penalties as those which apply for high range drink driving.
If you’ve been charged with ‘failing to undertake breath test/analysis’ and you feel that you genuinely attempted to give the sample but failed, our specialist traffic lawyers can help you fight the charges or, if you wish to plead guilty, to secure the most favourable outcome.
Last but not least, have a fantastic time over New Year’s!
Keeping your wits about you and following a few simple rules could mean the difference between New Year’s eve being the night of the year, and the night you’d rather forget.