Victoria Legal Aid

Violent behaviour

Violent behaviour is an offence and can carry very serious penalties.

Violent behaviour is any behaviour that causes another person any injury to the body that interferes with a their health or comfort, or that places them in fear of being injured. The injury can include pain or bruising.

Violent behaviour is an offence and can carry very serious penalties.

If you are charged with an offence relating to violent behaviour get legal advice quickly.

You don’t have to make physical contact with someone to be charged with a violence-related offence. Making someone fear that you will be violent towards them can also be an offence, including:

  • threatening to harm someone
  • being physically intimidating, such as standing over someone.

It does not matter whether you actually mean to harm the other person or not, as long as you wanted them to believe that you would harm them.

Charges

If you commit a violent act, the crime you’re charged with will depend on:

  • the injuries suffered by the victim
  • what you meant to happen (your intention)
  • what you should have realised would happen as a result of your actions.

Common charges relating to violent behaviour include:

  • assault – including sexual assault, unlawful assault and common assault
  • affray (a violent disturbance of the peace)
  • causing injury or serious injury
  • homicide, including manslaughter and murder
  • aggravated burglary
  • robbery (theft with violence or the threat of violence)
  • threats to kill
  • threats to inflict serious injury.

Which court hears the charges depends on how serious the charge is. The Supreme Court hears cases where someone has died as a result of a violent act.

Penalties

Penalties for committing acts of violence include fines, imprisonment, diversion programs, penalties that you serve in the community, such as community corrections orders or intensive correction orders, and paying compensation to your victim/s.

Can I be charged if I was with friends who committed a violent act, even if I didn’t take part in it?

It can be very hard to work out exactly what’s happened when there is a group of people involved in a violent act. Often everyone at the scene will be charged. ‘Affray’ (a violent disturbance of the peace) is a common charge in these circumstances.

Even if you can prove that you did not commit any of the actual violence, the police may still charge you with ‘acting in concert’. Acting in concert can include ‘inciting’ (encouraging) people committing a violent act, or if your presence prevents the victim getting away.

If the victim withdraws their complaint, will the police drop the charges against me?

Not necessarily. The police will listen to your victim’s reasons for withdrawing the complaint against you, but once charges are laid, it’s up to the police to decide whether they should be dropped. Police will usually decide based on whether there is enough evidence to prove the charges anyway. Get legal advice.

What will the court take into account when deciding the penalty for my charge?

The court looks at a number of factors, including:

  • what you intended or what you should have realised would happen as a result of your actions
  • your police record, if you have one
  • the severity of any injuries sustained
  • whether you plead guilty
  • whether you are remorseful (sorry) about what you did
  • if you have a problem with violence, such as a history of family violence, whether you’ve been to any counselling to help you manage your violent behaviour.

Penalties for violent acts range from fines to community-based orders to imprisonment.

Your options at court

You have three options at court:

Can I adjourn the hearing?

You can ask the magistrate for an adjournment if you want to:

  • go in the diversion program
  • get a private lawyer.

Adjournments are hard to get for any other reason. The magistrate may say no. See Going to court for a criminal charge for more information about what to do at court.

Other support

Find out how you can get other support for going to court.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au

Reviewed 18 May 2022

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