Law, Police & Court Matters

The information contained in the pages below was accurate at the time of publication. Please check the listed reference pages for up to date information or content changes were supplied.

  • What's the difference? Criminal and Civil law

    • Criminal law

      Criminal law is used to maintain social order. It is the law enforced by police.

      Crimes are serious breaches of the criminal law such as murder, sexual assault and theft. Less serious crimes are sometimes called misdemeanours or summary offences.

      You cannot sue or be sued under criminal law but you can be prosecuted (or charged) – usually by the police. Anyone who has committed a crime may be charged by the police and can be punished by receiving a fine, community service order or sent to jail.

      Ref: Being sued 2009-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Civil law

      Civil law deals with the rights and duties of individuals towards each other.

      Civil law applies when people (or companies) do “civil wrongs” against each other.

      Common civil wrongs include negligence and breaching a contract. In civil law there is an attempt to right the wrong, or settle the dispute. A victim may get compensation, and the person who caused the wrong pays.

      Civil law is not enforced by the police. You can sue or be sued by someone under civil law.

      Ref: Being sued 2009-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

  • Court Matters

    • Who's who in the court room?
      • The Magistrate- the magistrate decides your case. When the magistrate asks you a question, you should end your answer with ‘your honour’.
      • The defendant- When you’re in court you should only speak when your are spoken to first. It also helps to be polite.
      • Legal aid solicitor- The legal aid solicitor is your lawyer and will argue your case for you. You don’t have to pay to have a legal aid lawyer in NSW.
      • Police prosecutor- the Police prosecutor argues against your case. They recommend to the magistrate what your penalty will be.
      • Court registrar- The court registrar writes down everything that is said in court. They also organise when it’s time for you to go in.
      • Police officer- In court Police are often called as witnesses. So you will see a lot of cops hanging around the court.
      • Support person- you’re allowed to have support people sit in court while you’re there. These can be friends, parents, or youth workers.
      • The Sheriff- the Sheriff is there to keep people safe at court. They screen people for weapons at the front doors.
      • Court staff- The Court staff run the court. They work out the order for cases and call your name to go in.
      • Children’s Court Assistance Scheme- CCAS workers volunteer to come to court and help you if you need it. They can talk to you if you are unsure of anything.

      Ref: Court Stuff-Who’s Who -Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Being summoned to court

      If you are charged by police with an offence you will be summoned (required to appear) in front of the court. You will be notified of the date of your appearance by the police. In some cases Bail conditions will be set.

      You will need to go and arrange a private solicitor or go to the local court house prior to your case being heard to get contact details of the Legal aid solicitor on duty for your case day.

      You need to attend the court on the required day. You will probably not be told what time your case will be heard, so will need to be there at the start of the court day (usually 9am).

    • What is Bail?

      Bail is an agreement (in writing) made between you and a police officer or court official, when you have been charged with a crime. You agree that you will appear in court for a hearing on a particular date. There may be special conditions you have to follow (e.g. curfew)

      Ref: Bail -Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,


    • Solicitors and Legal aid

      You can find listings for solicitors in the yellow pages phone book, or may be recommended one, by family or friends. You will need to contact them well before your court date to arrange an appointment to discuss your case. Best to do this as soon as you know your court date.

      Take your copy of the Police statement with you plus anything else they request. They may ask you to collect written references from people who have known you for some time in the community.  These references will help the judge to learn what sort of character you are in the community, aside from the offence.

      A legal aid solicitor will also need to arrange an appointment with you prior to the court date, you will be asked to fill out forms to check your eligibility for the Legal aid service.  If your case is accepted they will then act in the same manner as a private solicitor.

    • Dressing for court

      It is very wise to dress in clean, neat and respectful clothes for your court appearance, a suit and tie are not necessary. Pants/skirt and a collared shirt are appropriate but thongs or bare feet will certainly get you the wrong sort of attention.

    • What to do when you get to the court house

      Arrive early so you can find out exactly which court room your case will be in. You can do this by finding the printed court list which should be in the foyer, if not, ask at the front desk.

      Find out where the court officer is for the court room you will attend and let them know you have arrived. They may ask you a few questions like who your solicitor is? Or how you intend to plead?

      Next, find your solicitor if you are being represented by one, and agree on where you will wait until your case is heard.  If you’re at court for an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) you may be able to wait in a safe room. Check with the court officer.

    • Your court appearance

      When you are called to go into the court it is customary to bow your head towards the Magistrate or Judge as you enter the door (this is not mandatory but is a mark of respect).

      Your solicitor or the court officer will tell you where to sit. If the Magistrate is not in the room, you must stand when he/she enters. The Magistrate, Solicitor and Prosecutor will confirm the case number and details. You may be asked your name. Always end your answers with “your honour” when speaking directly to the Magistrate or Judge.

      The Solicitor and Prosecutor will then argue the case, present evidence and clarify the details and events leading up to, during, and after the offence, while the Magistrate listens and asks further clarifying questions. All evidence is presented to the Magistrate so he/she can determine the outcome of the case. Sometimes the Magistrate will decide that an adjournment is best, so more information or evidence can be gathered. This may also be requested by the solicitor.

      Otherwise, if the Magistrate is satisfied that all the information is in front of them, they will consider it all, relate in back to the law, and pass down a finding.

      The Magistrate will explain their decision and any conditions /timeframes that are set by it. This may result in a conviction, a good behaviour bond, Bail and conditions, community service orders, goal sentencing, a fine or a caution.

      If you are sentenced to goal time, you will be escorted from the court and transported to goal by a police officer or the sheriff.

      If you are being fined or have conditions set down for you, you will be directed to the wait while the court officer has documentation written up.

      Speak to your solicitor after the case to ensure you have understood everything that happened and any further conditions set down.

      It is a rather scary experience to go before the court, and there may be language and terms used that you do not understand. This is why it is good to have a solicitor represent you and explain the outcome.

    • Court matters-More information links
  • Police matters

    The Police are there to help keep the community safe. They have probably the toughest job of all. They experience the worst of human behaviour, and attend horrific situations way too regularly.

    So spare a thought that the copper who’s pulling you up for being a hoon and speeding today, may have had to attend a fatal car crash last night.

    • Police interviews and questions

      If the police ask you to go to the police station to answer questions, you don’t have to go unless you are arrested.

      Police must tell you that you don’t need to answer their questions, but that anything you do say can be used in court as evidence. Always get legal advice before taking part in a police interview or when giving a formal statement. You can ask to call the Legal Aid Youth Hotline on 1800 10 18 10 (free call) which is staffed by lawyers who can provide you with legal advice.

      After you are arrested, the police can detain you for a “reasonable period” (usually a reasonable time is considered to be up to 4 hours) in order to investigate the crime and question you. If you are arrested by the Federal Police and you are an Aboriginal person or you are under 18, you can be held for two hours only.

      While you are detained, you have the right to obtain legal advice and to talk to a support person. The support person may be a parent, guardian, relative or friend. If you are under 18, you are entitled to have the support person with you during any police questioning.

      If you are 14 or older and police want to question you, they need your agreement on which independent adult should be present during the interview. Make sure this person is someone you trust. If you are uncertain, do not agree to that person and ask for someone else. The independent adult cannot be a police officer. The independent adult might be a lawyer, family member, youth worker, or a friend who is over 18.

      If you are arrested and over 14, the police may take your fingerprints or a photograph of you if they are trying to identify you. If you are under 14, the police must have a court order to photograph or fingerprint you. The police may not obtain a DNA sample from you without a court order.

      If you make a statement to the police, you have a right to get a copy of it. You also have a right to get a copy of any taped record of the interview.

      Some things to remember:

      • try not to panic if the police want to talk to you.
      • it is a good idea to give your name and address and to be polite. If you are rude and swear the police may be able to charge you with using obscene language.
      • it is an offence to give a false name and address to the police.


      Ref: Criminal law 2009-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • The right to remain silent

      In most circumstances you must give the police your name and address, but other than that you have the right to remain silent.

      You can refuse to answer questions asked by the police whether you have been:

      • stopped in the street;
      • taken to a police station for questioning; or
      • arrested.

      You should refuse to answer any questions or sign any statements until you have spoken to a lawyer.

      Ref: Criminal law 2009-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • What if police ask for identification?

      If police ask you for identification, generally you don’t have to give them your details.

      You must give your real name to police if you are:

      • Driving a car
      • Involved in a car accident
      • On public transport
      • Under 18 and drinking alcohol in a public space
      • Suspected of being involved in or witnessing a serious crime.

      It is an offence to give police a false name or address.

      If you ask, the police must give you their name and the name or their police station.


      Ref: Criminal Law 2009-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Being arrested by police

      You can only be arrested if the police:

      • find you committing an offence;
      • suspect you have committed an offence; or
      • have a warrant for your arrest.


      If the police arrest you, they must tell you:

      • that you are under arrest;
      • why you are being arrested;
      • the officers name; and
      • the station they are from.


      Ref: Criminal law 2009-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • When can the police ask you to move on?

      The police may ask you to move on if they think you are:

      • obstructing, harassing or intimidating people;
      • buying or selling illegal drugs; or
      • likely to frighten a reasonable person.

      It is an offence to refuse to comply with a request to move on.

      Ref: Criminal law 2009-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,


    • Sniffer dogs- where can they be used?

      If police have a warrant, they can use drug sniffer dogs in places named on the warrant. Police can also use a drug sniffer dog without having a warrant if they have a reasonable suspicion that you possess drugs.

      Police can also use drug sniffer dogs without a warrant and without a reasonable suspicion on you if you are at the following places (or going into or leaving these places):

      • pubs, clubs and other places where alcohol is served (apart from restaurants);
      • entertainment events, including sporting events, concerts, dance parties & street parades; and
      • some public transport, bus stops and train stations.

      If you are in one of these places, police can bring drug sniffer dogs in the premises even if they don’t have a reason to think anyone there has drugs.

      Police officers are required to keep sniffer dogs under control and take reasonable precautions to make sure that sniffer dogs don’t touch or hurt people.

      Ref: Police, 2011-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Your right to complain about police mistreatment

      In most situations, the police are not allowed to break the law. They have some special powers but they also have rules that they must follow. If they don’t then you can complain. You may like to make a complaint about police if you believe their conduct has been:

      • corrupt;
      • illegal;
      • unreasonable;
      • unfair;
      • intimidating;
      • discriminatory; or
      • inappropriate.

      You can also complain about a police officer if you believe they have:

      • injured you;
      • damaged or stolen your property;
      • accepted or solicited a bribe; or
      • acted improperly.

      A range of outcomes from making a complaint are possible. For example, a police officer can be charged and convicted of an offence if abuse takes place.

      How do I make a complaint about the police?

      You can make a complaint without giving your name. You need to give enough information that the incident or action can be properly investigated.

      Complaints about NSW Police

      You can complain to the Officer in charge at the police. If you make a complaint directly to a police officer, they must refer your complaint to the Police Commissioner who must forward serious complaints to the Ombudsman and if about corruption, to the Police Integrity Commissioner.

      • If you are not satisfied with the response, you can also make a complaint directly to: The NSW Ombudsman, phone: (02) 9286-1000 or 1800 451 524 (toll free)

      Where can I get help about making my complaint?

      You can telephone the Ombudsman’s office to discuss whether or not you should make a complaint and they can give you help putting your complaint together.

      Ref: Police 2009-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Police-More information-Links

      You can get more information from

      Smart Handbooks-

      Ombudsman NSW-

  • Fake ID's

    • What is a fake ID?

      In New South Wales, you can prove your age using:

      • a driver licence; or
      • a passport; or
      • a NSW Photo Card or proof of age card from another state or territory.

      You are using a ‘fake ID’ when your ID:

      • has been made illegally;
      • has been scratched or altered in any way (like to make you seem older);
      • doesn’t actually belong to you (like a friend’s or brother’s ID).


      Ref: Fake ID cards 2012-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Are fake ID's illegal?

      It is against the law to use any kind of fake ID to buy alcohol or get into a pub, club or bar.

      If the ID is a NSW Photo Card or NSW driver licence, it is also against the law to:

      • use a fake ID to buy cigarettes;
      • make a fake ID (including by scratching or changing a real one);
      • let someone else use your ID;
      •  lie or give false information to get the ID.


      Ref: Fake ID cards 2012-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • What if I use a fake ID?

      Using any fake ID to buy alcohol or get into a pub, club or bar is a crime. If you are caught, the police will probably either caution you, or fine you $220 on the spot.

      If the fake ID is NSW Photo Card or NSW driver licence, you are also breaking the law by:

      • having it in the first place; or
      • using it for anything at all (like buying cigarettes).

      You could be cautioned by the police, fined around $700 on the spot by police, or fined up to $2,200 by a court, if caught doing either of these things. If you use a fake NSW Photo Card or driver licence to get into a pub, you will be breaking all three laws, and could be fined for them separately.

      If you use someone else’s NSW Photo Card or NSW driver licence, you could be fined $700 on the spot by police, or up to $5,500 if convicted by a court.

      Only the police and certain people from Roads & Maritime Services can confiscate a fake ID. Staff members cannot, but even if they do there will usually be nothing you can do about it.

      Ref: Fake ID cards 2012-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • What if I make a fake ID?

      Making an ID includes scratching, changing or forging an ID, and is against the law. The possible penalties are the same as for lending your ID to someone.  As long as you haven’t been caught doing the same thing before, and you aren’t making and selling fake IDs, you will probably be cautioned or fined about $700 by the police.

      People who forge fake Photo Cards just for the money can be fined up to $5,500 if convicted by a court.

      Ref: Fake ID cards 2012-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • What if someone else uses my ID?

      It is against the law to let someone else use your NSW Photo Card or NSW driver licence by pretending it belongs to them. If that person gets caught, the police may ask both of you how that person got hold of your ID.

      If the police find out that you gave your ID to someone else and you knew they were going to pretend it was theirs, you may:

      • be given a warning or caution by the police; or
      • be fined around $700 on the spot by the police; or
      • be fined up to $2,200 if the matter goes to court and you are convicted.


      Ref: Fake ID cards 2012-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • What if I lie to get ID?

      Giving fake information to get your ID (like using fake documents or lying to Roads & Maritime Services) is illegal.  You could be fined $700 by the Police for lying to get a Photo Card, or $2,200 by a court if convicted of lying to get either a Photo Card or a driver licence.

      Ref: Fake ID cards 2012-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Fake ID's-More information Links
    • Legal aid youth Hotline-under 18's

      The Legal Aid Youth Hotline is a legal advice line for under 18s. Qualified, experienced criminal lawyers with expertise in juvenile justice are available to provide advice to all young people who have committed, or are suspected of committing, a criminal offence.

      The Hotline operates from 9am – midnight, Monday to Friday; and for 24 hours on Weekends and Public Holidays.

      Phone: 1800 10 18 10 (free call)

      Ref: Legal advice 2013-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Legal aid NSW

      Legal Aid NSW provides legal aid and other legal services to disadvantaged people. Help over the phone is available through their Law Access NSW service, which is a free information, referral and advice service.

      Freecall: 1300 888 529 (LawAccess NSW)



      Ref: Legal advice 2013-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Woman's legal services NSW

      Women’s Legal Services NSW exists to provide a voice for women in NSW and to promote access to justice, through the provision of legal services, law reform and community legal education.

      Free legal advice is available over their general advice line:

      Open 9:30am – 12:30pm and 1:30pm – 4:30pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (the line does not operate on Wednesday).

      Free face-to-face legal advice is also available.

      Phone: (02) 9749 5533 (general advice)

      Phone2: 1800 801 501 (rural free call line)

      Phone3: 1800 639 784 (Indigenous women’s free legal contact line)

      Phone4: 1800 810 784 (free domestic violence legal advice line)

      TTY: 1800 674 333

      Fax: (02) 9749 4433


      Address: PO Box 206, Lidcombe NSW 1825

      Indigenous Women’s Legal Contact Line

      A service for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander women and girls. The toll-free line is staffed by Aboriginal women, and is open 10:00am – 12:30pm and 1:30pm – 4:00pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (the line does not operate on Wednesday).  Provided by the Women’s Legal Resources Centre.

      Phone: 1800 639 784 (free)

      Phone2: (02) 9749 5533

      Fax: (02) 9749 4433

      TTY: 1800 674 333


      Ref: Legal advice 2009-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Aboriginal legal services

      Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Ltd is  predominantly a criminal law practice which provides advice and representation for both Indigenous adults and young persons. In addition, they provide services in child protection matters.

      Head Office

      Phone: (02) 8842 8000

      Fax: (02) 8842 8010


      Address: Level 8, 33 Argyle Street, Parramatta, NSW

      Sub-offices: Redfern, Parramatta, Bathurst, Canberra, Wollongong, Grafton, Taree, Newcastle, Kempey, Lismore, Armidale, Moree, Tamworth, Wagga Wagga, Griffith, Nowra, Moruya, Dubbo, Bourke, Broken Hill, Walgett.

      Ref: Legal advice 2009-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Community legal centres

      To find a Community Legal Centre near you, please visit the website of the National Association of Community Legal Centres and click

      Ref: Legal advice 2009-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Legal advice-More information-Links


      National Association of Community Legal Centers

      Legal Aid

      Aboriginal Legal Service

      Law access- Attorney General & Justice

      Woman’s Legal Service NSW

  • Photo's & video's

    • When is photographing/recording something illegal?

      There are some things that you are never allowed to photograph or record no matter where you are.

      Nude/Sexy Images of Young People

      It’s NEVER ok to take (or post/send/keep) an image of someone under 18:

      • showing their private parts (genitals, anus, breasts) for a sexual purpose;
      • posing in a sexual way;
      • doing a sexual act; or
      • in the presence of someone who is doing a sexual act or pose.

      This kind of image is called “child pornography” or “child exploitation material”, and is illegal even if the person in the image says it’s ok. This law applies throughout Australia.

      Ref: Photo’s and videos on your phone 2013-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Photo's/video's-More info-Links

      Lawstuff has important information you should know about the laws around the use of photos and recordings on your mobile phone.  It tells you how to stay out or trouble and what your options are if someone has inappropriate images of you.

      For detailed information about this subject and more, see Lawstuff – Lawstuff>mystuff>camera phones

  • Graffiti

    • What is graffiti?

      Graffiti is writing, drawing or marking any space (for example, a building, a pole or a vehicle) with spray paint, a marker pen or anything that can make a mark that will not come off easily with water or detergent (permanent graffiti)

      Sticking up signs, posters, or paper, or intentionally making a mark (including with chalk or paint), on a space that can be seen from a public place is related to graffiti. (temporary graffiti)

      Ref: Graffiti, 2013-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Is graffiti illegal?

      It is possible to create graffiti legally. For example, if you have the permission of the owner or it is a space designated as a legal graffiti space. Check with your local council about these spaces.

      Permanent graffiti is against the law if you intentionally damage the space and do not have a reasonable excuse. You would have a reasonable excuse if you had the permission of the owner of the property.

      Temporary graffiti is against the law when you do not have the permission of the owner, or your local council.

      Ref: Graffiti, 2013-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Can I buy spray paint?

      If you are under 18, it is against the law for anyone to sell or supply a spray can to you. They may be fined up to $1100. This means that a shop assistant can ask you for identification to prove you are over 18 if you want to buy spray paint. If you cannot produce identification the shop assistant may refuse to sell you spray paint.

      Ref: Graffiti, 2013-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Can I carry graffiti tools?

      If you are under 18 it is against the law to have a spray paint can in your possession in a public place. However, if you can show that you have a proper (and legal) reason to carry the spray paint can, for example, if it’s for your job or education or training, then it is not against the law.

      It is also against the law for you to carry any tool for permanent graffiti if you intend to damage or ruin someone’s property.

      Ref: Graffiti, 2013-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Can the police confiscate my graffiti tools?

      If you are under 18 (or the police think you are under 18), the police can confiscate your spray can unless you can show you have it for a legal reason (such as you need it for your job, education or training). The Police do not have to charge you with any offence to confiscate your spray can. However the police must explain to you their reasons for confiscating it.

      If the Police do take your spray can they are allowed to throw it away if it is partly used or of very little value. If they do not throw it away, the police will keep it at the police station for at least seven days. You can make a claim for a return of the spray can from that police station if you are over 18 or you can prove that you had the spray can for a legal reason. If you do not make a claim within 7 days, the spray can will be thrown away.

      Ref: Graffiti, 2013-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,


    • What happens if I'm caught breaking graffiti laws?

      If you are caught illegally carrying a graffiti tool or illegally doing temporary or permanent graffiti, the law says the police cannot just give you a warning, a caution or make you go to a youth justice conference. This means you will most likely be charged and you will have to go to court.

      Ref: Graffiti, 2013-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • What are the penalties for graffiti crime?

      If you are charged for a graffiti crime and are found guilty by a court, then depending on the case a court can:

      a) Issue a notice of caution (but only if you admit the offence);

      b) Fine you. The amount of the fine will depend on the circumstances, but cannot be more than $2200;

      c) Require you to perform community service work, which will usually involve cleaning up graffiti in your area, instead of paying the fine. The amount of community clean up work ordered depends on how much you would have been fined.

      d) Order you to pay for the cost of repairing the damage you have caused up to an amount of $2,200;

      e) Make a Driver Licence Order; and/or

      f) Send you to prison or a children’s detention centre. However, the court will only do this if you have been found guilty of graffiti crimes many times and the court thinks you are likely to do it again.

      Ref: Graffiti, 2013-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Driver licence orders

      As well as ordering you to pay a fine and/or ordering you to do community service, a Court might also make a Driver Licence Order. A Court can either:

      a) extend the time you have to have your L or P Plates by up to six months; or

      b) make it so that you will only be able to get 4 demerit points, for a time of six months or less. This starts from the date that the Court makes the Order.

      If you don’t comply with a Driver Licence Order, your licence could be suspended for a while, or you could lose it altogether.

      Ref: Graffiti, 2013-Lawstuff, National Children’s and Youth Law centre, viewed 19/06/14,

    • Graffiti-More information links

      See – Lawstuff.