Our Video and Blog post below talks about the penalties for Commonwealth Offences and the possibility of getting a discharge and avoiding a criminal conviction.
Commonwealth offences are offences that have been committed against federal law, rather than state or territory law.
Commonwealth offences cover a wide range of conduct, including serious crimes that are dealt with in the district or supreme court rather than the local court.
Some examples of Commonwealth offences include:
- Drug importation and exportation.
- Stealing from a Commonwealth organisation e.g. Centrelink.
- People smuggling.
- Fraud against a Commonwealth organisation or a Commonwealth officer.
Commonwealth offences are subject to the same range of penalties as state and territory offences.
If you are found guilty of a Commonwealth offence, you may face one or some of the following penalties:
- Good behaviour bond.
- Community service.
- Prison sentence.
- Home detention.
- Suspended sentence.
It is possible to be discharged for a Commonwealth offence under certain circumstances.
Section 19B of the Crimes Act deals with the discharge of federal offenders without recording a conviction.
This means that although you may be found guilty of a Commonwealth offence, the matter won’t proceed to a conviction and you won’t be penalised or have a criminal record.
How do I get a discharge for a Commonwealth offence?
As the penalties for committing Commonwealth offences can be severe, it is worth investigating the possibility of getting a discharge and avoiding a criminal conviction.
A criminal conviction can restrict your options for travel and employment in the future.
There are a number of factors which will be taken into consideration by the judge or magistrate when deciding whether to proceed with a conviction for a Commonwealth offence.
These can include:
- Any extenuating circumstances which might have contributed to the offence.
- The trivial nature of the offence.
- The general character and previous history of the defendant.
If you have committed a relatively minor offence, you have a clean criminal record and are able to provide character references to prove your good character; it is more likely you will be able to obtain a discharge for a Commonwealth offence.
If the offence is more serious, it is possible to obtain a discharge in certain circumstances.
An experienced criminal lawyer with a strong track record of helping clients successfully avoid conviction for Commonwealth offences may be able to help you get a discharge even for a more serious matter.
Will there be conditions?
If you have your Commonwealth charges finalised without a criminal conviction under Section 19B, you may be placed under a good behaviour bond, which means you have to agree to certain restrictions.
A good behaviour bond can last up to five years, and if you breach the terms, the good behaviour bond can be revoked and you face conviction.
Some of the possible conditions you face if you are given a good behaviour bond include paying costs, or compensation for any damage to property or any money that was stolen or obtained fraudulently.
You may also be required to report to a probation and parole officer, and follow any reasonable directions that they provide you.
If you are facing a Commonwealth charge, and want to find out more about the likelihood of obtaining a discharge without conviction, speak to your defence lawyer.
They will be able to advise you on the strength of your case and if appropriate, make a request to the magistrate or judge that the matter be finalised without conviction.