Criminal Law SA

Many criminal offences have been established in South Australia. Defences can be raised for each of them. Other than traffic offences, most crimes in South Australia are defined by the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935. Some categories of crime, like treason, are rarely prosecuted.

Offences Against the Person

Crimes categorised as offences against the person tend to be crimes of violence or crimes that provoke fear. They include, for example:

  • Murder and manslaughter
  • Assault
  • Unlawful threats
  • Stalking
  • Causing harm
  • Causing serious harm
  • Firearm offences
  • Kidnapping
  • Child abduction
  • Rape and other sex offences
  • Child pornography offences
  • Incest
  • Offences against public order

These are crimes like riots and affray that involve violent acts or threats against society rather than individuals.


Offences against property

Crimes against property involve damage or misuse of another person’s property. They include, for example:

  • Arson
  • Recklessly endangering property
  • Using a motor vehicle without consent
  • Offences of dishonesty


Crimes in the dishonesty category usually involve taking another person’s property without consent or using deceit to harm another person. They include, for example:

  • Theft
  • Robbery
  • Fraud and deception
  • Identity theft
  • Money laundering
  • Computer offences


Computer crimes generally involve using a computer to commit a crime (such as theft or fraud), gaining unauthorised access to computer data, modifying software or data without the owner’s permission, or introducing a virus or other damaging component into a computer.


Offences of a Public Nature

Crimes categorised as offences against the public are generally crimes against the government, including the police. Examples include:

  • Impeding criminal investigations
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Perjury
  • Jury tampering
  • Bribery of public officials
  • Abuse of public office
  • Escape from custody


Other Offences

Other Categories of Crime include:

  • Criminal organisations
  • Cheating at gambling
  • Criminal trespass
  • BlackmailPiracy
  • Spiking (contaminating) food or beverages


General Defences

Any crime can be defended by arguing that the accusation is false, either because the crime did not happen or the accused has been mistaken for the true criminal. Crimes that require proof of a state of mind (such as proof that the accused acted intentionally) can be defended with evidence that the state of mind did not exist (such as evidence that harmful conduct was accidental rather than intentional).

The law establishes two additional defences that can be raised under certain circumstances.


Intoxication

As a general rule, if a drug or alcohol was administered to an accused without his or her consent, intoxication may be a defence. The defence is considerably more limited if the accused became intoxicated voluntarily.


Mental Competence

A person who suffers from brain damage or a severe mental disability may be incapable of committing certain crimes. In other cases, a person who suffers from a mental illness may not be competent to stand trial until the illness is resolved.


Choosing Your Defence

Every case is different. If you have been accused of a crime in South Australia and wonder what defences might be raised, you should consult a criminal defence lawyer.

A defendant may be unrepresented.

  • Legal Aid Solicitor – employed by Legal Aid NSW or a Solicitor appearing on a Grant of Legal Aid (sometimes referred to as the Duty Solicitor).
  • A Solicitor in Private Practice – funded by the defendant or appearing Pro Bono.
  • A Barrister – may be briefed by the Solicitor or directly by the client. Barristers wear wigs and gowns in higher courts will wear ordinary attire in Local or Children’s Court.
  • Public Defender – is a Barrister employed by the NSW Government and appears mainly in Legal Aid matters.
  • A Senior Counsel or Queen’s Counsel – is a very experienced Barrister who mainly appears in Supreme Court and Appellate matters. Wears a longer wig. Some Public Defenders are Senior Counsel / Queen’s Counsel. (Legal Aid NSW, Overview of NSW Criminal Justice System and Diversion Programs, July 2012)

Presumption of Innocence

A person against whom a criminal offence is filed in court enjoys this presumption. This is a fundamental right accorded to the accused in all criminal prosecutions. He is presumed innocent until his guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt. Otherwise, a false charge against a person would be an expedient ploy to put a man in jail without the necessity of proving the case.

Presumption of Innocence

A person against whom a criminal offence is filed in court enjoys this presumption. This is a fundamental right accorded to the accused in all criminal prosecutions. He is presumed innocent until his guilt is established beyond reasonable doubt. Otherwise, a false charge against a person would be an expedient ploy to put a man in jail without the necessity of proving the case.

The quantum of evidence necessary to convict the accused is proof beyond reasonable doubt. It means that the evidence presented by the prosecution produces to the mind of the court a moral certainty that the person charged committed the crime. Any doubt as to the guilt of the accused will necessarily result in his acquittal.

A person who has been previously acquitted in a case can no longer be prosecuted under the same case. This is to ensure that a person already acquitted will be free from perpetual harassment by either the adverse party or the State. A person cannot be put twice into the same jeopardy involving the same act.

This section of the website contains some of the many legal articles covering all manner of criminal offences, ‘white collar’ offences and traffic offences in NSW. Other offences that are not listed in this section can be discussed with your criminal lawyer.

In New South Wales, criminal offences are based on the common law and some statutory provisions in the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). The Crimes Act covers a range of offences relating to violence, sex offences, property, fraud, arson, corruption, breaches of the peace and others. It also contains procedural rules and practices.

Further offences are contained in other pieces of legislation, for example, the Weapons Prohibition Act 1988, Fire Arms Act 1996, Drugs Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985, Road Transport Act 2013, Bail Act 2013, and the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence )ACT 2007.

Also, a great number of other legislative enactments create criminal offences for specific offences or serious breaches of statutory duties. Some examples include the Fair Trading Act 1987, Corporations Act (C’th), Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000, and the Casino Control Act 1992.

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