Schoolies – a ‘brush up’ on what constitutes criminal offending in Queensland

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Counting down the days until school is done and the celebrations begin...

As the end of another year approaches, it’s unusual to come across any soon-to-be grade 12 graduates who aren’t counting down the days until classes are finished, uniforms are scrawled with the well wishes and crude drawings of their classmates, muck-up day punishments have been served and the highly anticipated ‘Schoolies’ celebrations begin.

For graduates, the Schoolies festival is a time of excitement - it represents a liberation from high school and offers the perfect forum for a 17/18 year old’s first real experience of independence.

For parents, however, Schoolies is a time of dread, sleepless nights and acute anxiety. It is an occasion marred by annual news reports of public violence, drug use, sexual assaults, arrests, injuries and, on occasion, tragedy.

Accordingly, it has become customary for parents to talk to their teens in the lead up to the festivities about the importance of recognising dangers and exercising awareness to ensure their safety. These conversations also present the perfect opportunity for parents to help their kids ‘brush up’ on the kinds of behaviours that are often overlooked as unlawful.

In Queensland, the following are common examples:

Distributing intimate images/prohibited recordings

It is a criminal offence to share an intimate image of another person without that person’s consent and in a way that would cause the other person distress reasonably arising in all the circumstances. Similarly, it is an offence to distribute a prohibited visual recording of another person without that person’s consent.

It doesn’t matter that an image or recording was originally captured with consent - if someone sends you or agrees to you taking an intimate image or recording, that does not mean they have agreed to anyone else seeing it.

Conduct of this kind falls within a category of offence often referred to as ‘revenge porn’ (even if retribution is not intended) and can attract punishments of up to 3 years imprisonment.

Drug offending

The unlawful possession or supply of a dangerous drug in Queensland constitutes a serious criminal offence and, if convicted, can attract a broad range of penalties. The maximum penalties for these offences range from 15 to 25 years imprisonment.

For Schoolies, it’s important to understand that the mere offer to supply a dangerous drug to another person is considered a preparatory act and is sufficient to establish an offence of supplying a dangerous drug. It will therefore attract the same maximum penalty prescribed under legislation had the supply actually occurred.

Teens should also be aware that under the Drugs Misuse Act 1986, any person who is an occupier of, or concerned with the management or control of a place, may be deemed to be in possession of any dangerous drugs found on the premises, unless that person can show that they neither knew nor had reason to suspect that the drugs were in/on that place.

In practical terms, this means that if someone is in possession of dangerous drugs in the premises of another, both persons can be charged with possession of that drug. A person alleged to have had ‘deemed’ possession bears the onus of negating the elements of knowledge and reasonable suspicion on the balance of probabilities.

Relevantly, a person who is able to exclude strangers from their premises is an occupier. Occupiers need not be physically present at the relevant time.

Drink/drug driving

Obviously, driving under the influence of alcohol or an intoxicating substance is an offence.

What is commonly overlooked, however, is that a person under the influence who is simply in charge of a motor vehicle, even if that vehicle is not driven, is liable to the same punishment as if the person had driven. Offences of this kind often arise where an inebriated person decides to sleep in a vehicle whilst in possession of the keys.

Similarly, it is an offence to drive a vehicle with a relevant drug present in one’s blood or saliva, even if that person was not under the influence of the drug at the time. This often occurs where a person has, in the days or even weeks prior to driving, ingested cannabis, given that most drug tests can detect tetrahydrocannabinol in urine, blood, saliva or hair for many days after use. The maximum penalty for such an offence is 14 penalty units or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months. The offence also attracts a mandatory licence disqualification period of not less than 1 month and not more than 9 months.

‘Prescribed offences’ in a public place whilst adversely affected by an intoxicating substance

Under the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, where a prescribed offence is committed, it is a circumstance of aggravation if the offence occurred in a public place while the offender was adversely affected by an intoxicating substance.

A prescribed offence generally includes charges of assault, including the assault or obstruction of a police officer.

If a person is convicted of a prescribed offence with the circumstance of aggravation, the court must make a community service order for the offender, whether or not the court also imposes another punishment.

In light of the above, parents are often advised that the best preparation for Schoolies starts early and involves open communication with their teen. Keeping a child informed of what constitutes criminal behaviour might just make the difference in ensuring they enjoy a safe and memorable Schoolies experience.

If you or your family need to consult a lawyer during Schoolies, call us after hours on 0416 205 363. During business hours, the Fisher Dore Lawyers team is available for enquiries on 1300 557 884 or send a confidential enquiry.


  1. Photo credit: Cottonbro Studios

Written by: Fisher Dore

This article is of a general nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. If you require further information, advice or assistance for your specific circumstances, please contact the Fisher Dore team.

 

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