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WA Leavers 2016 warning: Don’t trade your academic record for a criminal one

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Thousands of WA school leavers head off for a week of well-deserved celebration today, but parents and teenagers are being warned of the potential legal consequences of their behaviour. 

Slater and Gordon Perth Criminal Lawyer Andrew Tehan said while leavers are understandably excited, they need to remember that a split second decision could have lifelong consequences.

“After completing 12 years of education, school-leavers deserve to let their hair down and have some fun, but they might regret trading their hard-earned academic record for a criminal one,” Mr Tehan said.

“Drug, alcohol and public nuisance laws are important to be familiar with, as well as the penalties for animal welfare offences after we saw a video emerge of a man allegedly giving vodka to a quokka on Rottnest Island earlier this week.

“What might seem like a ‘hilarious’ drunken social media post has real impacts on native wildlife and could carry a maximum five year jail sentence or a $50,000 fine under the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA).

“Also keep in mind that having an arrest or criminal charge on your record could be a barrier when applying for a job and it can also make it difficult to get a visa to visit or work overseas.”

Mr Tehan said leavers over the age of 18 might also want to think twice about buying alcohol for their younger friends.

“The WA government introduced new secondary supply laws last year, which include a maximum fine of $10,000 for anyone caught supplying alcohol to minors without their parent or guardian’s permission,” Mr Tehan said.

“However, it is a defence if the person supplying alcohol believed on reasonable grounds that the juvenile was over 18 and they were in fact at least 16 years old, but this wouldn’t apply if you knew the person and were buying alcohol for them because they weren’t old enough.

“Additionally, if you are at licensed or regulated premises, supplying alcohol to anyone under 18 years of age can mean a $200 infringement penalty or maximum $2,000 fine.”

Mr Tehan said leavers could also count on a heavy police presence.

“WA Police has a harm minimisation and crime prevention strategy in place for leavers, which includes zero tolerance for illegal and antisocial behaviour,” Mr Tehan said.

“Another thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a private post on social media and aside from being embarrassing, this could be used as evidence of criminal conduct.

“There are also some relatively serious criminal penalties for taking, posting or forwarding sexually explicit material of another person without their consent, a practice which is also known as ‘revenge porn’.”

Seven things to remember during Leavers Week celebrations

  1. It’s important to remember an 18 year old is considered an adult in the eyes of the law.
  2. Drinking in a public place is an offence, regardless of your age.
  3. Being drunk or ignorant of the law is not an acceptable defence to a crime.
  4. Being caught in possession of illicit drugs can lead to a prison sentence, especially if it’s a large amount.
  5. If approached by a police officer, you must give your name, address and, if you are under 18 years old, your age. If you are arrested, try to remain calm and you should ask to call your family and/or a lawyer.
  6. You can be arrested and charged for offenses such as urinating in public, using offensive language and wilful exposure (flashing).
  7. It is illegal to use someone else’s ID card or to create a fake ID card. Lending someone your own ID can also lead to a hefty fine.