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Warnings and Formal Cautions

What crimes can I get a warning for?

How are warnings given?

What happens if I get a warning? 

How do warnings affect my criminal record?

Formal Cautions

What offences can I get a formal caution for?

How are cautions given?

What happens after I receive a caution?

Will formal cautions show up on my criminal record?

Will I have to tell an employer that I got a caution?

Warnings


What crimes can I get a warning for?


A young person can be given an on-the-spot warning if they have done something illegal, or are believed to have done something illegal.  You can only get a warning for a minor non-violent offence.  Examples include are trespassing, possessing alcohol underage, shoplifting or offensive language. However, you cannot receive a warning for a graffiti offence.

You can still receive a warning even if you have already been given a warning before or you have committed an offence before. 

A police officer can decide not to give you a warning if the police officer believes it is not in the interests of justice to do so.   One case this might happen is if you been given a warning five or six times and you keep breaking the law.

 

How are warnings given?


The police officer who gives the warning must ensure that you understand the warning and its consequences.

Police may tell your parents about the warning, either by letter or in person. However, if the police officer believes informing your parents about the warning would create an unacceptable risk to your safety and well-being, they shouldn’t tell your parents.

 

What happens if I get a warning?


If you receive a warning, the police can’t take any further action against you.  There cannot be any conditions or additional punishment attached to the warning.

 

How do warnings affect my criminal record?


If a warning is given to you, the police officer must record it. However, this record does not form a part of your criminal history – and it must be deleted once you turn 21.   You will not have to tell any future employers that you have received a warning.

 

Formal Cautions


A caution is a formal warning.  It is more serious than a warning.
   


What offences can I get a formal caution for?


You can receive a caution for any of the crimes covered by the YOA but not for graffiti offences.  

You are entitled to be given a formal caution if:

  • you admit to the offence in the presence of an adult (such as your parent or a lawyer); and
  • you agree to receiving a caution (as opposed to going to court); and
  • you can’t be given a warning because of the type of offence or because a caution is not considered to be in the interests of justice.


You can still receive a caution even if you have received warnings before or if you have committed an offence before.  However, there is a limit of three cautions – if you have already received three cautions, you cannot receive another one and instead you may have to go to court.

 

How are cautions given?


Police don’t give formal cautions on-the-spot. They give a ‘notice of caution’ that indicates that a formal caution will be given on another day between 10 and 21 days after the notice has been issued. 

This notice must contain information including the details of the alleged offence, the details of when and where the caution will be given, the persons who may be present when the caution is given, the name of the police officer who is the contact officer for the caution and the consequences of failing to attend the giving of the caution.   The notice must also be in language that children can understand.
 
Before the formal caution is given, you can change your mind about being given a caution and choose to have the matter dealt with by a court. The officer in charge can also change their mind and refer the matter to a specialist youth officer who will consider whether a youth justice conference should happen instead.

The caution is given by a senior police officer or, sometimes, a respected member of the community, such as an Aboriginal elder.  The person giving the caution must take steps to ensure that the child understands the purpose, nature and effect of the caution  and the caution may only be given if the child is accompanied by a parent, guardian or other responsible adult.

 

What happens after I receive a caution?


If you receive a caution, the police can’t take any further action against you.   You receive a caution instead of having any other criminal penalty.  There cannot be any conditions or further penalties but you can be asked to write an apology to the victim.

 

Will formal cautions show up on my criminal record?


If a caution is given to you, the police officer must record it.  This will appear on your ‘court alternatives history’ and may be seen by the Children’s Court if it deals with you for further offences. However, this record does not form a part of your criminal history – and it may not be taken into account by an adult court.   So, if you break the law after you turn 18, an adult court is not allowed to look at this information.  

Also, if the police take any photographs or fingerprints from you for a caution, they have to destroy these.


 

Will I have to tell an employer that I got a caution?


You only have to disclose a formal caution to a future employer if you are applying for certain jobs such as a teacher, police officer, a judge, a prison officer or to work with kids, and even then, you would only need to disclose it if they asked you about cautions specifically or your criminal history in general.  A caution will also be taken into account if the crime you received a caution for is arson and you are seeking a job as a fire fighter.  




This page was last updated 28 June 2015.

   
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