Common assault is considered to be a relatively minor offence and is used in cases where no serious injuries have occurred as a result of the alleged assault. Common assault is generally treated as a summary offence, which means that it will be dealt with in the local court and the maximum penalty is two years’ imprisonment. Other frequently used penalties for common assault include fines, good behaviour bonds and community service orders.
What penalty will I get for common assault?
The penalty you get for a common assault conviction will depend on a number of different factors, including the severity of the case and the strength of your defence if you choose to plead not guilty. It is common to be given a fine for common assault in NSW if the prosecution can successfully prove that you are guilty.
Here are some of the criteria that must be fulfilled for a finding of guilt on a charge of common assault:
- The act must have been done intentionally to make the victim fear for their safety or recklessly with no regard for whether fear was caused to the victim by the assault.
- The assault must have been performed without the consent of the victim.
- There was no lawful excuse for the act or behaviour such as self-defence or necessity.
Common assault charges where there was physical contact e.g. pushing or hitting may be treated more severely than an alleged common assault where there was no physical contact, e.g. spitting.
Fines for common assault in NSW are generally given as a substitute for imprisonment, so if it is your first offence and considered relatively minor, you may be given a fine rather than a more severe penalty. The magistrate or judge will decide which penalty they consider most appropriate after hearing evidence for both sides of the case.
Can I avoid a fine for a common assault charge?
You may be able to avoid a fine if you can successfully plead not guilty and avoid a criminal conviction, or if the judge or magistrate decides to give you a good behaviour bond or community service.
When deciding how much a fine for common assault should be, the magistrate will take your personal financial circumstances into consideration. If paying a fine would cause severe difficulties, your lawyer can make sure the magistrate is aware of this and it may be taken into consideration when deciding your penalty or the amount of the fine.
The best way to avoid a fine for a common assault charge is to have a good defence, and to present yourself in the most positive light possible in court.
This can mean obtaining character references, writing a letter of apology if you are pleading guilty, and explaining any personal circumstances or recent events that may have contributed to the offence. In some cases, it may be possible to get a Section 10 order for a common assault charge, which could mean you avoid a penalty or a criminal conviction even though you are found guilty.
If you are facing a charge of common assault, you won’t necessarily have to pay a fine. The penalty you will receive depends on the circumstances surrounding your case and the strength of your defence. Seeking advice from an experienced lawyer can help you get a positive outcome for your common assault charge.