Crimes Against Persons Law
As criminal lawyers serving clients in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and surrounds we have a bunch of experience helping our clients get out of, negotiate or mitigate the consequences of charges that might be made against them for criminal offences.
Crimes against people are some of the more significant matters that criminal lawyers deal with. They are treated very seriously in Queensland and can have significant penalties. These types of alleged crime include a variety of circumstances where people are harmed, or may have been harmed, through unlawful conduct.
For drug related charges, check out our other page here.
But first, always remember…
The Number One Rule of Criminal Lawyers
Speak to us before you speak to the police.
This is the absolute most important thing that you must do if you’ve been charged with a crime, are under investigation or even just think you might be charged with a crime.
And it’s just as true whether you are completely innocent of the alleged crime or whether you have concerns about the outcome.
We can help you understand:
- The risks and benefits of speaking to the police about your circumstances;
- What should and should not be said during a police interview (and whether you should agree to an interview at all);
- Whether or not the police even have a realistic basis for charging you; and
- The ways in which you might be able to get the charges against you dropped or the possible penalties minimised.
These are things that we strongly believe you should know before you participate in an interview with police. That way you can make good decisions based on solid advice.
Below are a few specific examples of the areas we can help in, but we can’t emphasise more strongly the need to call us before speaking with the police.
Murder, attempted murder and manslaughter
Among the most serious crimes in Queensland are murder, attempted murder and manslaughter.
Anyone convicted of these could be sentenced to life in prison, although the Court might make a lesser sentence in certain circumstances.
To be charged with murder (sometimes called homicide) the police need to establish that you have:
- Wilfully killed another person; and
- Had the intent to kill them or cause them grievous bodily harm.
Along with the maximum life sentence, there are certain minimum sentences for murder in Queensland:
- Murdering a police officer, if you knew they were an officer, carries a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison
- If you have a previous conviction of murder, or are found guilty of multiple murders, the minimum sentence is 30 years in prison.
As the name suggests, attempted murder is where you do (or fail to do) something in an attempt to unlawfully kill them.
You might also be charged with dangerous driving causing death, if you are believed to have killed (without meaning to) someone while dangerously or negligently driving a motor vehicle. This has a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
There is also a related charge of “accessory after the fact”. This is where you know that someone has committed murder and assist them despite that knowledge. Like murder itself, this has a maximum penalty of life in prison.
You might also be charged with “conspiracy” to murder (maximum penalty 14 years) or threatening someone with murder in writing (maximum penalty 7 years).
While murder requires that you intended to kill someone, manslaughter is where you have unlawfully killed a person without meaning to. Sometimes this might be because of carelessness, recklessness, or negligence.
You might also get charged with manslaughter if you had “diminished responsibility”. This is where you intentionally killed someone but had an impaired state of mind and could not control your own actions. One example of this is extreme provocation.
Shoplifting, stealing, fraud and burglary
Shoplifting and stealing are related crimes.
The main difference between the two is the value of the goods or services that you are alleged to have stolen.
Shoplifting might include:
- Walking out of David Jones with a pair of new socks on your feet;
- Eating a bunch of grapes from the shelf while walking around your local Coles;
- Saying you bought normal oranges at the self-checkout when in fact you’ve got organic oranges in your bag.
If the charge against you is for goods or services worth less than $150, then shoplifting carries a fine of 6 penalty units (currently $783.30).
But if it’s over $150, you might be charged with stealing.
To say that you stole something, Police need to show that you:
- Took it (whatever it might be) from someone else;
- Did not have the person’s consent to take it; and
- Are keeping it, with no intention of giving it back.
Stealing is a serious crime with a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment, although that can be increased to 14 years if you carried a weapon or physically harmed someone during the alleged theft.
Fraud is a broad charge that can cover a wide range of alleged crimes.
The main piece of fraud is that it involves:
For example, you might defraud your bank to get a loan by lying about your income or fabricating your timesheets.
You might lie to a potential employer on your CV in order to get a well paid job.
If you get a benefit of some kind, for yourself or others, by lying about something then there is a chance that you could be charged with fraud.
The penalty for fraud is a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Burglary is another type of stealing that involves illegally entering another person’s house with the intention of stealing.
While burglary by itself carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment, if it’s believed that you:
- Were armed;
- Pretended to be armed;
- Made the attempt at night;
- Brought an accomplice,
then it can carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Assault, sexual assault and stalking
Along with murder and manslaughter, assault crimes are considered very serious crimes against individuals, and bear significant penalties.
They are broken into different types of crimes based on the seriousness and nature of the harm, and the alleged intentions of the accused.
No matter what category it falls into, assault involves some kind of harm to another person. It might be physical harm, or mental harm.
People can consent to some forms of assault (for example, a standard tackle in a football game or brushing up against people as you walk down a busy street), but not others (a football player does not consent to being cut with a knife on the field).
Any type of force to another person – striking, touching, moving – might be assault. Importantly, you can “assault” someone without actually touching them, as threatening to touch someone can still be classed as assault.
The sub-categories of assault below offer more details.
Common assault is the most common assault charge for less serious allegations.
If, for example, you have a shoving match with someone in the line for a taxi because they cut in front of you, that might be a case of common assault (even if nobody was hurt).
The maximum penalty for common assault is 3 years in prison.
Assault causing bodily harm
If your shoving match in the taxi line (mentioned above) got a bit more serious and you punched the person in the face causing them to get a cut requiring stitches – that might be a more serious charge of assault causing bodily harm.
Bodily harm is where a person suffers injuries which interfere with their health or comfort. So if your taxi-rank scuffle sends someone to hospital then there’s a chance of this more serious charge.
The normal maximum sentence is 7 years in prison. This could increase to 10 years in some circumstances, such as when you have (or pretend to have) a weapon or there is more than one alleged attacker.
Unlawful wounding and grievous bodily harm
Wounding is where the alleged assault breaks or penetrates the skin. For example, a knife cut or broken glass assault might be a form of wounding.
If the assault is particularly serious, then a person might be charged with grievous bodily harm. This means the person attacked has lost a distinct part of an order, suffered from serious disfigurement or received an injury that would endanger their life or cause permanent injury if it was left untreated.
Wounding carries a maximum sentence of 7 years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for grievous bodily harm is 14 years.
If you are accused of sexual assault and under investigation by the police, it means that you are alleged to have:
- Made someone see an act of “gross indecency”;
- Forced someone into a sexual act other than one involving penetration; or
- Touched someone else inappropriately – for example, groping someone.
The maximum penalty for sexual assault is 10 years, but this can increase to 14 years if a weapon is used or more than one person is alleged to have been involved in the assault.
Rape is a serious sexual assault offence, and can attract a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
To be accused of rape, you need to be accused of having forced someone into sexual intercourse without their consent.
Importantly, a person cannot give their consent if they are asleep, unconscious or they are so impaired by drugs or alcohol that they cannot think properly. Consent must be freely and voluntarily given by a person capable of giving that consent.
Rape can include penetration of any object or digit into the vulva, vagina or anus of another person, or forcing someone into oral sex against their consent.
Any sexual intercourse with someone under age 12 is automatically considered rape as children are not capable of giving consent. There are also other possible charges relating to sexual offences against children, including indecent treatment, unlawful carnal knowledge, and maintaining a sexual relationship with a child.
Contrary to popular belief, stalking does not need to involve a constant and long-term tracking of someone – you can be charged with stalking even if there’s only one alleged incident.
Stalking involves attention.
Specifically, giving someone attention that they don’t want which:
- Frightens them;
- Causes them mental harm;
- Makes them believe they or their stuff is in danger;
- Prevents them from going about their day to day activities and life generally.
You could, for example, be stalking someone on social media if you regularly comment in an unusual way on their Facebook posts.
You might be charged with stalking for leaving someone written notes or messages on their doorstep or office desk.
And, of course, you might be accused of stalking if you follow someone or hang around them when they don’t want you to.
Stalking itself carries a maximum penalty of 5 years, but might be increased to 7 years if a weapon or threats of violence were involved.
Domestic Violence / Peace and Good Behaviour Applications
It’s no surprise that domestic violence is a hot topic around Australia and the world right now. In Queensland, we’re seeing a steady rise in domestic violence related charges.
On the family side of things, sometimes you might not be aware that initial Court orders have been made until after it’s already happened, and you find yourself served with papers. That can then be followed by a police investigation and charges being made against you.
Your immediate question will be: what do I do next?
We can help you:
- Understand your rights of access to your children and your home;
- Deal with the police if necessary and defend the charges;
- Mitigate the circumstances or seek to reduce any penalties, if the charges can’t be fully defended;
- Even make a private domestic violence or peace and good behaviour application on your behalf.
Need a Criminal Lawyer?
If you’ve been charged, are being interviewed by police (even if not yet charged) or are under investigation by police, then get in touch with us now to make sure you have solid advice before anything else happens.
To make a free appointment and get a quote, get in touch.
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