An assault is any unauthorised touching or any action that causes another person to fear immediate and unlawful personal violence.
It can be stressful and upsetting being charged with common assault, but you can trust the experienced defence team at Sydney Criminal Lawyers® to go above and beyond to ensure that you get the best possible outcome in your case.
What is the Offence of Common Assault?
Common Assault is an offence under Section 61 of the Crimes Act 1900 which carries a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison and/or a fine of $5,500.
To establish the offence, police must prove each of the following elements:
- That you caused another person to fear immediate and unlawful violence, or that you made physical contact with another person, and
- That the other person did not consent, and
- That your actions were intentional or reckless.
What are the Penalties?
The type of penalty that you will face depends on a wide range of factors, including the court that you matter is heard in.
Generally, common assault matters are heard in the Local Court before a magistrate, however in some situations the prosecution may request that the matter be heard in the District Court in front of a judge.
The maximum penalty for common assault is 2 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $5,500.
However, these are maximum penalties only, which means that they will only apply in the most serious of cases. In most cases, you will get a much lesser penalty.
Statistics indicate that the most common penalty for common assault was a section 9 good behaviour bond, which is a bond with a criminal conviction, followed by a section 10 bond (now conditional release order without conviction) which is a bond without conviction.
A good behaviour bond means that you must not commit any further offences as long as the bond is in place.
Section 10 bonds (now conditional release order without conviction) can last up to 2 years and section 9 bonds can last up to 5 years.
The bond may also impose additional conditions upon you – for example, you may be prohibited from entering a particular area.
If you breach a bond, you may be called back to court and a more severe penalty may be applied.
What Does the Prosecution Have to Prove?
If you’ve been charged with common assault, you may be wondering what the prosecution needs to prove, and what kind of penalties you could face.
To be found guilty of assault, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
1. That you acted in a way that caused another person to fear immediate and unlawful personal violence OR that you touched another person without their consent;
The central feature of assault is that your actions must have caused another person to fear some form of personal violence.
This means that no physical contact needs to occur in order for there to be an assault.
Furthermore, the threat must be immediate – a verbal threat of future violence will not constitute an assault, for example, ‘I’m going to ruin your life.’
2. That the other person did not consent to your actions
If there is physical contact, then it must be shown to be non-consensual – that is, the other person must not have given you permission to touch them.
3. That you acted intentionally or recklessly
Assault will not include situations where you accidently came into contact with another person, for example in large crowds.
The prosecution must prove that you intended to cause the other person to fear immediate personal violence, or that you did so recklessly; in other words, that you knew that your actions would cause the other person to fear immediate violence.
If your actions were reckless and resulted in physical contact, the prosecution has to prove that you realised that your actions may have resulted in some form of physical contact, however slight.
4. That you did not have a lawful excuse for your actions
It must be shown that you did not have some reasonable and lawful excuse for your conduct. For example, if you tackled someone whilst playing football and it was within the rules of the game, it would not constitute an assault.
What are the Defences?
Your Options in Court
Pleading Not Guilty
To be found guilty of assault, the prosecution must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you acted in a way that caused another person to fear immediate and unlawful personal violence OR that you had physical contact with another person;
- That the other person did not consent to your actions; and
- That you acted either intentionally or recklessly.
While assault may involve touching another person without their consent, there can be a common assault even if there was no touching at all.
For example, shouting at another person and causing them to fear violence is enough to constitute a common assault.
However, if you feel that the prosecution will be unable to prove these two elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you may wish to plead ‘not guilty’ to the charges.
Our lawyers are vastly experienced at defending and winning common assault cases at court, and can force the prosecution to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt.
If the prosecution are unable to do so, you will be found not guilty.
Alternatively, our lawyers may identify a legal defence that you have and get your case ‘dropped’ at an early stage or thrown out of court on that basis.
Some of the defences to common assault include:
If you agree with the charge of common assault, you may wish to enter a plea of guilty at an early opportunity.
Once you have entered a guilty plea, you will usually proceed straight to sentencing which is where the magistrate determines the appropriate penalty for your actions.
By pleading guilty at an early stage, you will be spared the time and expense of a defended hearing.
You may also receive a more favourable outcome, as you will demonstrate to the court that you are accepting responsibility for your actions by pleading guilty.
You may even avoid a criminal conviction altogether by persuading the magistrate to make a ‘section 10 dismissal or conditional release order‘ – which means guilty but no conviction is recorded against you.
However, before entering a plea to any criminal offence, it is important to speak to an experienced criminal lawyer who will be able to advise you about your options.
If you are willing to plead guilty, you may be wondering what kind of penalties you could face once convicted.
The maximum penalty of common assault is 2 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $5,500.
It is important to remember that these are maximum penalties only, so they will only apply in the most serious of cases.
The magistrate will determine the appropriate penalty in your case after considering all the facts and circumstances of your case.
If you are a person of good character and the offence is not very serious, you may be able to avoid a criminal record altogether.
The penalties that the court may impose include:
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Choose Sydney Criminal Lawyers®?
Going to court can be nerve-racking, but having a strong and compassionate legal team behind you can make the experience significantly easier to deal with. Here are 12 reasons to choose our multi-award winning legal team:
Proven Track Record of Exceptional Results
Sydney Criminal Lawyers® consistently achieves outcomes which are in the highest percentile of the Judicial Commission’s sentencing statistics for criminal cases.
Our legal team devises effective case-strategies and fights hard to have cases dropped entirely or charges downgraded – saving clients the time, expense and stress of a defended hearing or jury trial.
Where cases nevertheless proceed, our lawyers have an outstanding track record of winning defended Local Court hearings, and complex jury trials in the District and Supreme Courts.
We also consistently win appeals in the District and Supreme Courts (including the NSWCCA) after clients have received unsatisfactory results with other law firms in the lower courts.We are one of the few firms to achieve successful criminal law appeals in the High Court of Australia.
Where our clients wish to plead guilty, we frequently achieve ‘dismissals’ and ‘non convictions’ in cases where other lawyers have advised there is no chance of doing so.
Highest Level of Client Satisfaction
We have the best and most comprehensive client review record of any law firm in Australia.
Regular communication, accessibility and quality service are our team’s highest priorities.
We are committed to thoroughly explaining all steps involved in the criminal law process, providing regular updates throughout the proceedings, and making ourselves accessible and responsive.
We are passionate about providing an exceptional level of service to our clients, and we fight hard to achieve optimal results in the shortest period of time.
Australia’s Most Awarded Criminal Law Firm
We have received more awards and accolades than any other criminal law firm in Australia. Our team has been awarded “Criminal Defence Firm of the Year in Australia” in a number of prestigious and competitive awards programs for several years running.
The awards recognise our exceptional track record of results, our outstanding client service, the high level of satisfaction we achieve, the affordability of our services and our overall excellence.
We want our clients to know exactly how much their cases will cost from the very start. That’s why we were the first criminal law firm in Australia to publish ‘fixed fees’, back in 2004.
We offer fixed fees for most types of criminal cases and services.Our fixed fees apply to a range of Local Court cases such as drink driving, drug possession, fraud, common assault and AVOs, and also specific services such as prison visits, bail applications, appeals and defended hearings.
Unlike many other law firms, our fixed fees are published on our website – which ensures transparency and certainty.
Free First Appointment
For those who are going to court, we offer a free first conference of up to an hour with one of our Senior Criminal Defence Lawyers.
We also offer a free first conference to those who have received an unsatisfactory result after being represented in court by another law firm, or after representing themselves, and wish to appeal.
Specialist Lawyer Guarantee
We guarantee that only lawyers with substantial criminal defence experience will work on your case and appear for you in court.
This ensures our clients receive the highest quality representation from an experienced, specialist criminal lawyer.
All NSW Courts
From Bombala to Broken Hill, our lawyers appear in courts throughout New South Wales – and across Australia for Commonwealth cases.
And we offer fixed fees for most criminal and traffic law cases throughout the state.
Our entire firm is exclusively dedicated to criminal law – which makes us true specialists.
All of our lawyers have years of experience representing clients in criminal cases, and our principal has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist since 2005.
An ‘Accredited Specialist’ is a lawyer who has practised for at least 5 years in a particular field of law (such as criminal law), has passed a rigorous assessment process conducted by the Law Society of NSW, and has been selected by the Specialist Accreditation Committee of the Law Society as an expert in the field.
Accredited Specialists are required to undertake more training each year than other lawyers and must be successful in having their accreditation renewed every year. Specialist Accreditation is the mark of a true specialist.
Our firm’s specialist experience ensures you receive the best possible result, whatever your criminal law case may be.
Results-Focused Law Firm
Our team is passionate about achieving results, and unlike many other law firms, our lawyers do not have monthly financial ‘budgets’ to meet.
The absence of budgets means our lawyers are entirely focused on achieving optimal results in the shortest space of time; whether by getting charges dropped or downgraded at an early stage or having cases ‘thrown out of court’.
Not having budgets also means our lawyers are not under pressure to engage in unscrupulous practices such as unnecessarily adjourning cases or ‘overcharging’ clients – which, sadly, is a common complaint against many other lawyers and law firms.
No budgets encourages regular consultation between lawyers within the firm – promoting an ‘open door’, team environment where lawyers bounce ideas off one another, formulate case strategy together and benefit from each other’s specialised experience, methods, techniques and insights.
The result is a firm which delivers optimal outcomes in the shortest time periods, at the least expense and stress to our clients.
Team of Lawyers Behind You
Our clients benefit from the pool of knowledge that only an extensive team of experienced criminal defence lawyers can provide.
Our lawyers regularly consult one another to stay ‘ahead of the pack’ in the ever-changing field of criminal law – constantly devising, refining and implementing specialised techniques which ensure our clients achieve the best possible outcomes.
A team approach is particularly important when it comes to serious criminal cases such as murder, commercial drug cases, serious and sexual assaults, large-scale fraud, robbery and other ‘indictable’ cases.
In such matters, clients reap the benefits of several lawyers devising and executing case strategies which maximise the chances of having cases dropped or downgraded at an early stage, or ‘thrown out of court’ – often saving clients a great deal of cost, time and anxiety.
Familiar with Magistrates and Judges
Each of our lawyers appears in court on a daily basis, and has done so for years. We have therefore been able to develop an understanding of, and rapport with, magistrates and judges in Sydney and indeed across the state.
Our team’s extensive experience before the courts ensures your case is tailored to the specific nuances of individual judicial officers, maximising the likelihood of a favourable result.
We have offices in locations across the Sydney Metropolitan Area and beyond, including:
- the Sydney CBD, on Castlereagh Street, directly opposite Downing Centre Court,
- Liverpool, directly opposite Liverpool Local Court, and
- Parramatta, near the justice precinct.
We offer free parking at our Sydney CBD and Liverpool locations, and all of our offices are close to train stations and bus terminals.
For those who are unable to attend our offices, we offer conferences by telephone, Skye and FaceTime anywhere around the world.
If you are going to court and wish to arrange a free first consultation, call our 24 hour hotline on (02) 9261 8881 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Success Stories
- Not Guilty of Aggravated Indecent Assault and Prosecution Ordered to Pay Costs
- Assault Charge and Apprehended Domestic Violence Order Dropped
- Not Guilty of Assault, Stalk/Intimidate, Damage Property, AVO and Costs Ordered Against Police
- No Criminal Record for Common Assault After ‘Facts’ Significantly Amended
- Not Guilty of Common Assault and Failing to Leave Licensed Premises
- Not Guilty of Assault Charges and AVO after Defended Hearing in Downing Centre Court
- Successful District Court Appeal Keeps Client Out of Prison
- Not Guilty of Affray and Common Assault
- Client avoids Criminal Record after Assaulting a Security Guard
- Client Avoids a Conviction for Assault Occasioning Actual Bodily Harm