Assaulting a police officer
Assaulting a police officer is a crime under sections 58 and 60(1) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). This offence occurs when a person assaults a police officer in the execution of their duty.
This could include anything from pushing, spitting on, or punching a police officer, to struggling violently while the police arrest you.
Specific offences apply depending on the context of the assault or the harm caused, and include:
- Assaulting a police officer during a public disorder.
- Assaulting a police officer occasioning actual bodily harm.
- Wounding or causing grievous bodily harm to a police officer.
The offence of assaulting a police offer is often laid in circumstances when a person is being unlawfully arrested, and they resist that arrest. In this case, sound legal defences may be available.
Penalties for assaulting a police officer
Assaulting police is a common charge and carries significant potential penalties.
The maximum penalty that can be imposed for assaulting police is five years imprisonment.
However, most charges remain in the Local Court where the jurisdictional limit is two years imprisonment.
Other penalties that can be imposed include a fine, Conditional Release Order or Community Correction Order. It is also possible for no conviction to be recorded under section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act.
The penalties are more severe for other forms of this offence, and often carry a term of imprisonment. For example, causing grievous bodily harm to a police officer during a public disorder carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
Overall, the offence of assaulting police covers many different types of actions and harm. In determining which penalty to impose, the courts will consider the nature of the assault and the seriousness of the harm caused.
Resisting police occurs when a person resists the actions of a police officer during the lawful execution of their duty. It is a crime under sections 58 and 546C of the Crimes Act.
Under section 58, the maximum penalty for resisting arrest is five years imprisonment.
Under section 546C, the maximum penalty is 12 months imprisonment or a fine of up to $1,100.
There are occasions when a person is charged under section 58 of the Crimes Act where it is appropriate to negotiate a plea of guilty to an offence under section 546C which carries a smaller maximum penalty. Expert legal representation is therefore recommended to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome.
What does ‘resisting’ mean?
The commonly understood legal definition of resisting is “opposing by force”.
Often a charge of resist arrest is laid by police is circumstances when the elements of the offence are not made out. For example, running away from a police officer before an arrest has been made does not constitute resisting arrest.
To prove the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you intentionally resisted the course of action the police officer was pursuing, i.e. trying to arrest you.
This offence is sometimes charged inappropriately, such as when the arrest is unlawful, or a person is simply moving as a response to pain from the use of force, which at times is lawful but still painful, and at other times is excessive. The available defences require a sophisticated legal understanding of some of the more technical aspects of police powers, and it is advisable that you seek legal advice from a criminal defence lawyer.