Offensive language is one of the least serious criminal charges and police often charge it unnecessarily. Merely swearing in the presence of, or at, police will rarely amount to offensive language because the courts have recognised that exposure to swearing and some verbal abuse is part of the daily reality for police.
Our criminal lawyers frequently have this charge dismissed by way of not guilty verdict or by way of section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999, meaning no conviction is recorded and our clients have no criminal record.
What is an Offensive Language Offence?
Offensive Language is dealt with in Section 4A of the Summary Offences Act 1988. The Act makes it an offence to use offensive language in or near or within hearing distance from a public place or school.
Offensive language consists of behaviour calculated to wound the feelings, arouse anger or resentment or disgust or outrage in the mind of a reasonable person.
Penalties for Offensive Language
If you are found guilty of Offensive Language, you are likely to receive a fine. The maximum penalty is 6 penalty units ($660) and/or 3 months imprisonment.
The Summary Offenses Act also states that when imposing penalties for this offence, the court may consider a number of alternate punishments. It states;
“Instead of imposing a fine on a person, the court:
(a) may make a community correction order under section 8 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 that is subject to the standard conditions of a community correction order and to a community service work condition (despite the offence not being punishable by imprisonment), or
(b) may make an order under section 5 (1) of the Children (Community Service Orders) Act 1987 requiring the person to perform community service work,
as the case requires.
(6) However, the maximum number of hours of community service work that a person may be required to perform under an order in respect of an offence under this section is 100 hours. “
How do I beat a charge of offensive language?
Offensive language is one of the least serious criminal charges and is frequently dealt with by way of section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act, meaning no conviction will be recorded, there is no other penalty and you will have no criminal record.
You will be found not guilty of the offence of Offensive language if the police cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt the following elements:
- You used offensive language; and
- Within hearing from a school or a public place.
Offensive language consists of behaviour calculated to wound the feelings, arouse anger or resentment or disgust or outrage in the mind of a reasonable person. In determining whether the offence of Offensive language has been committed, the relevant question is whether, if there had been an ordinary reasonable person in the street at the relevant time, that person could have seen and been offended by your conduct. The reasonable man is not thin-skinned.
It is a defence to offensive language if you satisfy the court you had a reasonable excuse for conducting yourself in the manner alleged.
If you agree that you have committed the offence (and the police are able to prove so), it is best to plead guilty as you will normally receive a discount on your sentence, and it will demonstrate remorse and contrition. Alternatively, it may be the case that one of our experienced solicitors can negotiate with prosecutors for you to plead guilty to less serious facts or even a less serious charge.
Offensive language carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $660.00; however, this penalty is typically reserved for the worst offenders.
Our solicitors have a proven track record of having offensive conduct charges dealt with by way of section 10, meaning no conviction will be recorded and you will have no criminal record.
You can read about all the sentencing options that a court has, including having no conviction recorded.
Do I need references?
We believe references are an extremely important part of a plea of guilty in court. Read about court processes and how to write a good character reference.
Why choose Australian Criminal Law Group?
Our criminal lawyers are experts at obtaining the best outcome possible for Offensive language offences. For these offences, a good lawyer can be the difference between a conviction and no criminal record and freedom or jail. To read more about Australian Criminal Law Group, click here.To discuss your Offensive language charge, call Australian Criminal Law Group at our Sydney, Parramatta, and Blacktown offices or make a website inquiry today.
Summary Offences Act 1988 No 25, Part 2, Division 1, Section 4A
Current version for 15 March 2022 (accessed 7 March 2022 at 14.35) https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-1988-025
This information is intended as a general guide to law only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, and it is recommended that you speak with a qualified lawyer about your situation.
Australian Criminal Law Group and its suppliers make every reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information provided on its web pages. At the time of updating, this information was correct, however, given the laws in NSW and Australia are continually changing, Australian Criminal Law Group makes no warranties or representations as to its accuracy.