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
- Unlawful threats
- Causing harm
- Causing serious harm
- Firearm offences
- Child abduction
- Rape and other sex offences
- Child pornography offences
- 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:
- 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:
- 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
- Jury tampering
- Bribery of public officials
- Abuse of public office
- Escape from custody
Other Categories of Crime include:
- Criminal organisations
- Cheating at gambling
- Criminal trespass
- Spiking (contaminating) food or beverages
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.
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.
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.