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‘Schoolies Week’ – The Law and Your Rights

 

Each year, tens of thousands of school leavers converge upon the Gold Coast to celebrate 'Schoolies week'. For two weeks, the Surfer’s Paradise precinct of the Gold Coast is transformed into one giant party. With such a concentration of adolescent, alcohol fuelled revellers, invariably some Schoolies find themselves in trouble with the law at some point during the week.

 

In recent times, the government has implemented significant measures to ensure the safety and security of Schoolies attendees. This has seen a vast increase in policing throughout the two weeks. In 2014, 131 Schoolies were arrested for a total of 152 charges, this does not include the countless number of tickets that were issued by Police for public nuisance type offences.

 

It is important that you understand your rights and responsibilities when having any dealings with Police.

 

Rights

 

If approached by police, by law, you are only required to provide your name and address. An exception to this is if the police are making an enquiry regarding an offence to which age is a relevant matter, i.e. consumption of alcohol.

 

To avoid possible implications flowing from a failure to comply with a request for details from Police, it is wise to err on the side of caution and provide your name, address and date of birth.

 

After providing your personal details, you have the right to remain silent. Police are equipped with recording devices and any conversation you have with them will likely be recorded. The recorded conversation could be used as evidence against you in a subsequent Court proceeding. Therefore, you should answer no further questions or make any statement until you have spoken to a lawyer.

 

You are not required to attend a police station unless you are placed under arrest. If placed under arrest it is important that you comply with police directions, otherwise you risk being charged with Obstructing Police.

 

Once placed under arrest, you should immediately ask to speak with a lawyer or a family member.

 

Offences

 

The majority of offences that occur at schoolies are low-level street type offences, that often come about as a result of alcohol consumption. Below are some of the more common offences and the associated penalties.

 

Alcohol offences

 

Some common offences Police can issue on the spot fines (tickets) for:

  • Drinking in a public place (18 years and over): $117

  • Underage drinking or possession of alcohol in a public place: $353

  • Being intoxicated in a public place: $235

 

Identification

 

The majority of Queensland Schoolies will be under the age of 18 years. There may be the temptation to obtain a fake ID or lend an underage friend your ID. If so, you could be issued with the following fines:

  • Using a friends ID: $353

  • Lending an ID to a person who is underage: $589

  • Defacing an ID to change date of birth details: $471

  • Making and using a fake ID: $235 for minors, $471 for adults.

 

For each of these offences police could elect to charge you and have your matter brought before a court.

 

Public Nuisance

 

A person can be charged with public nuisance if they act in:

 

  1. A disorderly way;

  2. An offensive way;

  3. A violent way; or

  4. A threatening way

 

and their actions interfere with passage through or enjoyment of a public place.

 

While most charges of public nuisance will carry a nominal fine, the maximum penalty is 10 penalty units or 6 months imprisonment.

 

The penalties become more severe if the offence is committed in or around a licensed premises.

 

Police can issue an on the spot fine or elect to have the matter dealt with before the Court.

 

Drugs

 

Possessing or supplying a dangerous drug (Ecstasy, Cannabis, Cocaine etc.) can lead to severe penalties. If you are found in possession of dangerous drugs, police will also likely search or seize your phone. Text messages concerning the purchase of drugs can be used as evidence against you for more serious offences such as supplying a dangerous drug or trafficking in a dangerous drug. Police have the technology to extract deleted text messages from mobile phones.

 

Penalties for drug offences range from good behaviour bonds for low-level first time offenders to terms of imprisonment for more serious offences of supplying and trafficking in dangerous drugs.

 

All drug offences must be dealt with before a Court. The only exception is if you are in possession of no more than 50 grams of cannabis and have no prior drug diversion orders. The Police can elect to have your matter proceed by way of a drug diversion provided you admit that the drug was knowingly in your possession. However, before answering any questions you should contact a lawyer.

 

Other offences

 

On top of the more common offences listed above, there are a range of other offences that Schoolies encounter. These include; assault, sexual assault, trespassing, drink/drug driving and public urination just to name a few. The punishment for these offences can be severe, with some resulting in custodial sentences.

 

Summary

  1. You must provide your name, address and date of birth in almost all circumstances. It is best to err on the side of caution by providing this information.

  2. You should not answer any further questions or make any statement until you have spoken to a lawyer.

  3. You do not have to accompany Police to a Police station unless you are placed under arrest.

 

 

Andrew McGinness 

Accredited Specialist Criminal Law

 

Nathan Boyd 

Solicitor

 

 

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