WHAT IS AN AGGRAVATED OFFENCE?

February 27, 2014

In many cases when a person is charged with a criminal offence the wording of the charge states, “This is an aggravated offence.”  What does this mean and what is the significance of an offence being aggravated?

Most “Aggravated Offences”, and the circumstances which constitute an “Aggravated Offence”, are outlined in section 5AA of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935.

There are many ways in which an offence is deemed to be an Aggravated Offence.  Below is a list of the most common ways in which an offence is deemed to be an Aggravated Offence.

In relation to a charge of Assault, the offence becomes an Aggravated Assault if one of the following has occurred or applies (this is not a complete list):

  • The offender used, or threatened to use, an offensive weapon to commit, or when committing the offence;
  • The offender committed the offence in the course of deliberately and systematically inflicting severe pain on the victim;
  • The offender committed the offence against a police officer, prison officer or other law enforcement officer;
  • The offender committed the offence knowing that the victim at the time was under the age of 12 years old (or in some cases 14 years old) or over the age of 60;
  • The offender committed the offence knowing the victim of the offence to be his or her (current of former) spouse or domestic partner or a child of the offender or his or her spouse/domestic partner.

The penalties for an Aggravated Assault are significantly increased compared to a charge of a Basic Assault (or Common Assault).

The Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 states that a charge of Aggravated Assault can carry a maximum penalty of 3 to 5 years imprisonment (depending on the circumstances of Aggravation). The penalties are much higher when an Aggravated Assault causes serious harm to another person.

In relation to Driving Offences, the offence becomes an Aggravated Offence if one of the following has occurred or applies:

  • The offender committed the offence in the course of attempting to escape police pursuit;
  • The offender was, at the time of the offence, driving a motor vehicle that was involved in a street race;
  • The offender was disqualified from driving at the time of the offence (and  he or she knew they were so disqualified);
  • The offender committed the offence while under the influence of alcohol (involving a concentration of .08 grams or more in 100 millilitres of blood);
  • The offence caused the death of, or serious injury to, a person.

The penalties for an Aggravated Driving Offence increase the maximum sentence of imprisonment available to the Court in sentencing.  An Aggravated Driving Offence can also carry a lengthier period of licence disqualification in sentencing.  For example, a charge of Careless Driving (such as Driving Without Due Care) which is a basic offence does not carry a mandatory period of licence disqualification, however if it is an Aggravated Offence then the Court must order that the person is disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence for no less than 6 months.

In relation to Drug Offences, the offence becomes an Aggravated Offence pursuant to section 43 of the Controlled Substances Act 1984.  A Drug Offence becomes an Aggravated Drug Offence if the offender committed the offence for the benefit of a criminal organisation.

The penalties for Aggravated Drug Offences substantially increase the maximum sentence of imprisonment that a Court may impose in sentencing (up to and including life imprisonment).

It can occur that an individual admits to having committed an offence, but there is a dispute as to whether the facts that render the charge an Aggravated Offence are satisfied.  This can make a significant difference to the penalties involved.

If you have been charged with an Aggravated Offence and would like to know what it means for you contact Websters Lawyers on 8231 1363 to arrange an obligation free first consultation with a specialist criminal lawyer.