One of my busiest times of the year is the week following Schoolies, when parents call me because their child has been arrested over the weekend. Often, those parents are the same parents who think that they don’t need to make sure their kids know the law because they believe their child is responsible and won’t get into trouble. The rule book is thrown out at Schoolies: trust me on this.
There are some really obvious offences that will result in police wanting to have a good long talk to you; disorderly behaviour, assaults, urinating in public, drink driving (remember, if you are a Provisional driver, you cannot have any alcohol in your system). But there are a few offences that people might not realise at the time are very serious offences. I’ll talk about a couple of them. Like most stories that end up going bad, they involve sex and drugs.
It is an offence to have sex with a person under the age of 17. It does not matter whether that person consents; the law says that if you are under the age of 17, you cannot consent. If you are intoxicated, you cannot consent. Silence does not equal consent. The penalty for unlawful sexual intercourse is 10 years imprisonment. Depending on the offence, you will have a conviction recorded which will affect future employment and overseas travel and your name will be listed on the Australian National Child Offender Registration (ANCOR).
Sexting: it is an offence to possess child pornography. If you are under the age of 17 and you take a photo of your genitalia – even if you don’t send it on to anyone, you are possessing child pornography. If you send it on to someone, you are disseminating child pornography. If you post it online, you are disseminating child pornography.
It is an offence to take invasive photos of someone (regardless of age), even if the photos do not amount to pornography. An invasive image is defined as a photo taken of someone who has an expectation of privacy, eg, changerooms, toilet. It is an offence to threaten to distribute an invasive image. If the threat involves demanding something in exchange for not distributing the image, then you can be charged with blackmail.
The penalty for disseminating child pornography or taking an invasive image varies depending on the offence, but can be up to 10 years imprisonment. A conviction and ANCOR registration is likely.
If you are sent an image, then delete it immediately. It’s a defence to some of the above charges if the images are unsolicited and you take reasonable steps to delete the images.
Possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use do not normally result in criminal charges. Depending on the drug, you can be given an expiation notice or referred off for drug diversion. HOWEVER, if you possess drugs, even small amounts, intending to share them with your mates, you can be charged with supplying drugs, which carries a possible jail term of up to 10 years. If you supply drugs to someone under the age of 18, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. Supply includes giving it so someone: it does not require a sale.
If you are carrying over a certain amount of drugs, the law deems you to be intending on selling those drugs (ie, trafficking). The deeming amount for meth and most manufactured drugs is 2 grams total weight (regardless of purity). The deeming amount for dried cannabis is 250grams. The onus then falls to you to prove that you were not intending on selling those drugs. This will involve giving evidence at trial to satisfy a judge or jury that you possessed those drugs for personal use. The penalty for trafficking is up to 25 years imprisonment.
There will be a huge police presence at Victor Harbor during Schoolies. Police have declared the area a Public Precinct which means that they can search people within the area without having a reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed. The chances of getting caught with drugs or weapons are hugely increased because of these expanded powers and the number of police there.
If police search you, don’t start an argument. Be polite. Ask police whether you have a right to refuse. If they tell you that you can refuse, don’t consent. If they tell you that you cannot refuse, allow them to search. Don’t answer questions other than those police tell you that you must answer. Police aren’t there to ruin your weekend; they are there to protect you from dangerous situations. If you listen to the police your chances of staying out of jail will be greatly increased. Respect them.
Have fun. Let your hair down: you deserve it. But don’t do stupid stuff.