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Everything you need to know about an Adult Caution

Potts Lawyers > Criminal Law & Offences  > Everything you need to know about an Adult Caution

Everything you need to know about an Adult Caution

What is an adult caution?

An adult caution is a formal warning issued by the Police.  They can be available to people in certain circumstances.

Adult cautions are provided when it is in the public interest to do so.  Issuing one avoids a matter being processed through the criminal justice system.

They should not be confused with a routine verbal warning about undesirable behaviour, as they involve a more formal process.


What is the purpose of an adult caution?

The purpose of adult cautioning is to:

  • manage lower-end offending in a manner that positively contributes to behaviour change and reduced recidivism (i.e. the tendency of a convicted individual to re-offend);
  • divert appropriate offenders from the criminal justice system; and
  • reduce the disproportionate use of prosecution resources for minor matters by finalising matters efficiently and effectively.


Is an adult caution available for the offence that I have been charged with?

An adult caution can be issued to any person who has been charged with any offence that can be finalized at the Magistrates Court – level, except for offences:

  • involving domestic and family violence;
  • involving drink driving or drug driving;
  • against the Drugs Misuse Act;
  • involving injuries to a victim that constitute (or are more serious than) bodily harm; or
  • involving outstanding financial loss to a victim as a result of the offending.

Strictly indictable offences are those that are designed to be finalised at the higher court levels, namely the District and Supreme Courts.

A charge in this form cannot be resolved by way of an adult caution.


Am I eligible for an adult caution?

To be eligible for an adult caution, a person must:

  1. be aged 18 years old or over;
  2. not deny committing the offence; and
  3. provide informed consent to being cautioned for the offence.

If you choose not to provide informed consent to being issued with an adult caution, a police officer should consider an alternative course of action, which could include your matter proceeding through the court system.


What is ‘informed consent’?

In order for the police officer to obtain informed consent, the officer must inform you that:

  • you do not have to consent to being cautioned and you may choose to have your matter be dealt with by a court;
  • the caution will be recorded in police records but will not be included in your disclosable criminal history;
  • the caution is a formal process and provides an opportunity for you to consider and address the offending behaviour and avoid continuing through the criminal justice system;
  • after being cautioned, any further offending may result in you appearing in court; and
  • once a caution is administered the charge will be formally withdrawn in court and you will be discharged. In other words, the matter will be finalised.

However, the withdrawal of a charge before the Magistrates Court does not prevent the Queensland Police Service from recharging a person (i.e. reinstituting proceedings) in the future.

Whilst the prospects of an individual being recharged are often remote, there is still a risk that a person could be recharged for an offence that had previously been dealt with by way of an adult caution.


What does the prosecution consider when issuing an adult caution?

In deciding whether it is appropriate to administer a caution, an officer should consider any aggravating or mitigating circumstances relevant to the offending behaviour including, but not limited to, the following factors:

  • if the person has recently been cautioned for a similar offence;
  • characteristics of the person, such as age, mental health and special needs;
  • seriousness of the offence;
  • the person’s willingness to consent to a referral to an available support service; and
  • the relevance and recency of any criminal history of the person.

Depending on the circumstances and seriousness of each offence, police officers may administer a caution to a person on more than one occasion and with respect to similar offences.

The above factors are considerations to guide police officers in their decision-making and are not to be interpreted as absolute barriers to eligibility for an adult caution.


Does the victim need to consent to me being issued with an adult caution?

A victim’s consent is not required for an officer to administer an adult caution.

In all cases involving a victim, the officer is to inform the victim of the intention to administer a caution and may consider the victim’s views in the decision-making process. However, the victim does not need to consent to this course of action.

If the offence you have been charged with involves payment of compensation or restitution towards a victim, you must be aware that a police officer is not permitted to negotiate this sum of money on behalf of the victim.


Will an adult caution appear on my criminal history?

The short answer is no, the adult caution will not appear on your criminal history. However, the caution will be recorded in police records.


Need Legal Advice? We Can Help

If you have been charged with a criminal offence in Queensland, you should seek our advice immediately.

Further, if you hold any special licence such as a Blue Card, you should seek appropriate legal advice before consenting to being issued with an adult caution.

Request a free online consultation or call our Gold Coast Law Office on (07) 5532 3133 or our Brisbane Law Office on (07) 3221 4999.

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