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What does being charged with affray mean and how to get off an affray charge?

Affray is the name given to the charge involving the use or threat of unlawful violence against another person in public where the circumstances are likely to cause fear. According to Section 71 of Western Australian Criminal Code, a person who is, or in view of, a public place takes part in a fight with another person in circumstances that are likely to cause fear to any person is guilty of a crime. 

With that in mind, what does being charged with affray mean, how serious is it, and what are the possible defences? 

Here we take a closer look at the affray charge and what it means in the Western Australian context. 

What act is actually considered an affray?

There are multiple different circumstances that might constitute an affray charge. Here are some of the most common:

  • Taking part in a fight in front of others in public. 
  • Road rage;
  • Rioting/looting;
  • Threatening to punch or injure someone.

Is affray a serious charge?

Yes, affray is a serious charge that should not be taken lightly by anyone. Pursuant to the WA Criminal Code, if someone is found guilty of an offence like affray – where there is fighting in public causing fear – they are liable to imprisonment for up to 2 years, and the maximum penalty sits at $6,000. 

While there are possible defences against affray – you should always take such a charge very seriously and ensure you have the legal expertise backing you up in court. 

If you believe you might be or have indeed been charged with an offence against the public order you should contact a qualified criminal lawyer Perth for expert legal advice.

What happens when you’re charged with affray?

So what does being charged with affray mean exactly? Let’s take a closer look. 

Once charged with affray, unless there are more serious charges arising from the same incident (like assault or damage to property for example), the matter will be heard in the local Magistrates Court. If there are other serious aggravating circumstances pertaining to the very same charge, the matter could be heard in the District Court. 

During court, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant, through an act of violence has caused people of reasonable firmness to fear for their personal safety. If drugs and alcohol were a factor in the violence the final sentence may include a mandatory rehabilitation program. 

Is affray more serious than assault? 

Affray and assault charges are not the same and will be treated differently in court. The outcome of affray and assault charges can therefore be difficult to compare given the individual circumstances. 

That being said, affray is generally considered a more serious charge compared to a common assault charge because it involves “circumstances that are likely to cause fear to any person”. Compared to an affray charge, common assault charges are typically less severe. Although this will always depend on the situation. 

How do I get out of an affray charge?

What does being charged with affray mean when it comes to defending yourself in court – and how can someone get out of an affray charge? 

Excellent legal representation is always a prerequisite in getting the best possible chance at overturning an affray charge in court. With an experienced attorney backing you up, there are multiple defences that can be argued in court. Some of the most common are:

  • The circumstances were not likely to cause fear to any person;
  • Self-defence;
  • The defendant was not actually involved in the fight nor were any threats made;
  • The actions were necessary and proportionate given the circumstances (in defence of children).

Does affray stay on your record?

What does being charged with affray mean for someone’s criminal record? If found guilty, the charge will be included on your record until it can be removed via the Spent Convictions Act 1988 (WA). Under Section 6 of the Act, serious convictions can only be spent by applying to the District Court. 

For more information on how affray charges may appear on your record – make sure to reach out to our offices here at WN Legal – our team is standing by to answer your call. 

Get expert legal advice today 

Defending an affray charge can be extremely difficult and should certainly not be done alone. Getting expert legal advice early on is the best possible way to get ahead of the matter and give yourself the best chance of a fair outcome. 

Here at WN Legal, we take your matter seriously and will mobilise our expertise to push for the best outcome on your behalf. Simply give our experienced criminal lawyer team a call today or inquire online to get the ball rolling. 

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