Criminal Offences

Warning: The following is general advice only. It should not be substituted for legal advice. The following information is drawn from resources including Legal Aid Commission, NSW Law Society and Lawlink NSW.


Who can arrest me and why?
The police can arrest you if they have a warrant for your arrest; you have committed or are about to commit an offence against the Commonwealth Crimes Act; or you are suspected of smuggling or the import or export of prohibited goods.

Can the police use force to arrest me?
The police can use as much force as necessary to arrest you. The court will determine whether the force used was reasonable.

What happens if I resist arrest?
It is a criminal offence to resist arrest. You may be charged with resisting arrest even if the police determine not to charge you with any other offence.

Do I have to submit for a search?
Police can stop, search and detain you in certain circumstances. They can pat you down, look in your pockets and bags and search your car. In some circumstances they can strip search you.

The police officer must provide you with their name and reason for the search.

The court will determine whether the police had reasonable grounds for the search at a later date.

Can I be arrested for questioning?
Police can request you to accompany them to the police station but you are not required to go unless you have been arrested for an offence. It is not advisable to speak with the police until you have spoken to your Solicitor.

What should I do when arrested?
Insist that you be allowed to contact a lawyer.

Do I have to answer questions if I am under arrest?
Generally you have the right to silence. The exception is if the arrest concerns a motor vehicle incident where you are required to give your name and address and specifics of the incident. If in doubt insist on speaking to a solicitor first.

Give the police your name, address and date of birth, but do not answer any other questions or sign anything other than a bail form without the advice of a Solicitor.

Do I have to submit to being fingerprinted or photographed?
The police may take your fingerprints and photograph for the purpose of identification.

How long do I have to stay in custody?
Following an arrest the police may detain you for 4 hours. They can then apply for an extension of a further 8 hours. After this you must be either charged or released.

When can I get bail?
Usually after arrest and charging at a police station. In some circumstances bail can be denied. If in doubt contact a Solicitor.

How can a Solicitor help me?
They can advise you of your rights; explain the alternatives; make a bail application for you; and represent you in Court.

Before you go to Court

You should get legal advice as soon as you can.
It can take time to get legal aid or see a private solicitor. If you want to speak for yourself in court, it is still important to get legal advice. The court will be making decision about your future so getting legal help is a good idea.

Request an interpreter if you need one.
Ring the court where you case is to be heard and ask them to book an interpreter in your language. This can take some time to arrange so give them as much warning as possible.

Write down what happened.
This is very important. Prepare a statement in your own words of everything that occurred relating to your charge. This should include any conversations with police and witnesses. Make sure you do this while the events are fresh in your mind.

Character References
Written references about your good character can help your case in court.

Character references should be from people who do not have criminal records or “bad reputations”. These references can come from neighbours, family friends, workmates or members of clubs or organisations you belong to.

The references should be neatly typed and include the following:

  • They should be addressed to the Presiding Magistrate or Judge
  • State that the referee is aware of the charges before the court
  • State how long the referee has known you
  • How the person knows you
  • Anything which might help the court understand your good character
  • Be signed with the name of the person printed underneath with their address, occupation and the date.

Contact us for more information or assistance.

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