10 Things You Must Know if Charged with Assault in Victoria

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If you are facing criminal assault charges, you will undoubtedly be feeling anxious. You probably have many questions that you want to be answered and you are not sure who to turn to. 

It is ok to feel this way. Every day, many people in the same situation as you seek comfort from our friendly team of criminal defence lawyers. After speaking with us, they feel confident and reassured knowing that our specialists will attain the best possible outcome for them. 

We want you to feel the same confidence as our clients. So, we have compiled this list of 10 important things to know about assault charges in Victoria. It will answer many of your questions. But it is crucial that you also seek proper legal advice from a specialist criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us now and book a free initial consultation so that you can discuss your case.

Please note that this article is not legal advice. It only presents general information. 

In Victoria, there are over 30 offences that could technically be considered as ‘assault’. However, assault charges can generally be categorized into four groups: unlawful assault; common assault: serious (indictable) assault; and intentionally, recklessly or negligently causing injury, or endangering life or injury. You can find detailed information on each type of assault charge at Assault Charges in Victoria. 

Summary Offences

  • Unlawful Assault: Involves ‘unlawfully assaulting or beating another person’. Examples might include punching, kicking, spitting or threatening to hit someone. Unlawful assault charges can be laid even if you didn’t make contact or injure the victim. 

Indictable Offences

  • Common Assault: The police lay this charge in more serious cases of unlawful assault, or for minor assaults that occurred more than 12 months before the charge is filed at Court. This charge carries a higher maximum penalty (up to 5 years imprisonment) and though it can be heard in the Magistrates’ Court, is frequently heard in the County Court
  • Serious (indictable) assault: Involves ‘assaulting or threatening to assault another person with the intent to commit an indictable offence’. It also includes intentionally obstructing or resisting an emergency or custodial worker. Examples include punching a person whilst committing a robbery or kicking a police officer whilst they are attempting to arrest you. 
  • Intentionally, recklessly or negligently causing injury, or endangering life or injury: Numerous assault offences fall within this category. Your actions might be considered ‘reckless’ if you intentionally commit an act knowing that it could probably cause harm or kill someone. On the other hand, your actions might be considered ‘negligent’ if you do (or don’t do) an act that causes injury because the law expects you to avoid causing that injury. 

In Victoria, if the police allege you have committed a summary offence, they must file charges and commence proceedings against you within 12 months of the date of the alleged offence. Legislation might provide for a longer limitation period in certain circumstances. Unlawful assault is a summary offence.

If the police allege that you have committed an indictable offence in Victoria, they can charge you at any time. That is, in serious assault cases, there is no time limit within which the police must charge you. If the police have enough evidence, they could charge you years or decades after an assault allegedly occurred. Common assault, statutory assault and causing injury, or endangering life or injury are all indictable offences.

The police can file assault charges if the victim doesn’t want to. It is the police (and not the alleged victim) who decide if charges should be filed. 

It is also important to note that you can be charged with unlawful assault even if you didn’t injure the victim. Threatening to hit someone can be enough to warrant an unlawful assault charge. 

The evidence required by the police depends on the type of assault they are trying to charge you with. Different offences require different elements to be proven in court. 

If the police want to charge you with unlawful or common assault, they will need evidence that you intentionally applied force to the victim or threatened the victim with violence (without the consent of the victim). Evidence might include victim or witness statements, medical records, photographs, clothing and more.  

If the police want to prove that you committed a more serious assault offence, they might require more (or different) evidence. It is always best to speak to an experienced criminal lawyer if you are charged or under investigation for an alleged assault. Our team at Sher Criminal Lawyers will tell you whether or not the police have enough evidence to prove their case against you. Please contact us for a free consultation today. 

In Victoria, the police can hold you in custody for as long as is reasonable to investigate the alleged offence or offences. They must bring you before a court for a bail application as soon as practicably possible. 

In some circumstances, the police can hold you in custody for more than 24 hours. They can do so if it is not practicable to bring you before a court in that time and they have legal grounds for doing so (i.e. they believe that you pose an unacceptable risk of re-offending if you are released from custody).

In Victoria, you will have a criminal record if you are found guilty of an assault charge. However, in some cases, it may be possible to be found responsible for an offence without getting a criminal record, or to have a finding of guilt recorded without a conviction. If you want to avoid a criminal conviction, it is best to have an experienced criminal lawyer make compelling submissions to the court on your behalf. Their submissions should deal with:

  • The nature of the offence;
  • Your character and your history;
  • The impact that a recorded conviction would have on your economic well-being, social well-being and employment opportunities. 

Our team of specialist criminal lawyers are experts at making such submissions. We have helped clients to avoid a recorded criminal conviction and we can help you too. Please call us today for a free consultation. 

If you are found guilty of assault in Victoria, the penalty you receive will depend on the specific charge that you are guilty of. 

Some summary assault offences (such as aggravated unlawful assault) carry a maximum penalty of up to 2 years imprisonment. 

Serious indictable assault offences (such as common assault, statutory assault, intentionally causing serious injury and aggravated burglary) carry maximum penalties ranging anywhere from 5 years imprisonment up to 25 years imprisonment. 

You can find specific details about the penalty for each assault charge at Assault Charges in Victoria.

As mentioned above, different assault charges carry different penalties. The court will often impose a fine if you are found guilty of a summary assault charge. The fine amount depends on the number of ‘penalty units’ noted in the relevant legislation. In Victoria, one penalty unit equates to around $165. 

Unlawful assault carries a maximum fine of 15 penalty units (approx. $2,500). Aggravated unlawful assault carries a maximum fine of 25 penalty units (approx. $4,150). 

If you are charged with assault and this is your first criminal offence, your clean criminal record may help your case (depending on the circumstances of the offence). Sometimes the court will find a person guilty without recording a criminal conviction if there are compelling reasons for doing so. 

It is vital that you speak to a specialist criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Our team of defence experts will assess the circumstances of your case and put together the best possible defence using our years of legal experience. Please get in touch now for a free consultation

There are several possible legal defences to an assault charge. Some defences that might be relevant (depending on the circumstances) include self-defence, duress, mental impairment, accident, intoxication and consent. 

Legal defences are highly complicated areas of law and extremely difficult to prove in court. If you want to assess whether a legal defence is applicable in your matter, you must speak with a lawyer who specialises in criminal law. Our experienced lawyers have dealt with countless assault matters and can help you prepare the best possible legal defence. Please contact us now for a free consultation. 

Need more advice on how to pick the right lawyer? Discover more information at How to Choose a Good Criminal Lawyer in Melbourne.

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