You can be given a verbal warning for very minor crimes, such as offensive conduct and offensive language (swearing).

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What crimes can I get a warning for?

You can be given a verbal warning for very minor crimes, such as offensive conduct and offensive language (swearing).

There are some crimes where you can’t get a verbal warning because they are more serious. These include:

  • Crimes for which you get an infringement notice, like parking offences or littering;
  • Some driving crimes, like driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or dangerous driving; and
  • Very serious crimes like crimes involving violence or drug crimes.

A verbal warning is usually given for first-time crimes, but you can receive verbal warnings for crimes after the first one if the police officer feels it is appropriate.  

You can also be given a written warning. You are more likely to get a written warning if you have already been given verbal warnings in the past.    

How are warnings given?

The warning may be given at any place or time. The police officer who gives the warning must explain the warning and its consequences in a way that you can understand.

The police officer will try to tell your parent or guardian about the verbal warning, and ask them to agree to you being given the warning. However, you can still be given a verbal warning for a minor crime if the police can’t talk to your parent or guardian or if your parent or guardian doesn’t agree with the warning.

If you or your parent or guardian doesn’t agree to you being given a verbal warning – for example, if you do not admit that you committed the crime – then the police officer might decide to charge you with a crime and have the matter dealt with in court.

For written warnings, the police can only give you this while your parents are with you and if they agree.

What happens if I receive a warning?

If you receive a warning, the police can’t take any other action against you. The police also can’t attach any conditions to your warning.

How do warnings affect my criminal record?

If a warning is given to you, the police officer usually records it. This means that if you commit any future crimes, the police will be able to see that you have already received a verbal warning, and it will be less likely that you will receive another one.

However, this record does not form a part of your criminal history. If you apply for a job and they ask you whether you have a criminal history, you do not need to disclose this.

If you have to go to court for any future crimes, the police can tell the court about any verbal warnings that you have received, to show that you have been involved with the police in the past. It is up to the court to decide what to do with this information and how important the court thinks it is.

If you’re under 25 and you’ve been accused of a crime and want to know what could happen, please contact us here and we can give you free advice and information. Everything you tell us will be kept confidential.


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