«May 2012 Am I old enough? Common legal issues for young people This booklet covers what you can and can’t do because of your age Am I old enough? ...»
• sell or offer to sell someone a harmless substance, acting as though the substance is an illegal drug • manufacture (make) drugs or prepare them for selling • possess a ‘traffickable quantity’ of drugs (this amount is different depending on the type of drug) • help someone else to do any of the above (like picking up someone else’s drugs for them).
Selling drugs to a friend could be trafficking. Trafficking is a serious offence and the penalties can be very harsh.
Cultivating This means growing a drug, like marijuana or opium poppies. It’s an offence to plant, look after or harvest a ‘narcotic plant’. Growing drugs to sell is considered trafficking.
If you’re a student, on top of getting charges from the police, your school can suspend or expel you from school for using, possessing or providing other people with drugs. Taking drugs prescribed for you by your doctor is legal. If you have to take prescription drugs at school, let your year level co-ordinator know.
Syringes and the law It’s legal to carry new and used syringes. However, never carry illegal drugs on you if you’re carrying syringes or visiting a needle exchange.
Even if the police don’t find drugs on you, they can still charge you if you admit to using drugs. The police can consider used syringes or traces of drugs as evidence of you using a drug of dependence.
Always dispose of syringes safely by:
• returning used syringes in a sharps container to a needle syringe program. You can get a free sharps container from the program • get rid of the syringe in a public disposal unit, often found in public toilets.
There are services that collect used syringes and give you new ones.
Contact Direct Line for your nearest program, see page 60.
There are penalties for unsafe disposal of used syringes. If you throw syringes down toilets or on the street, they end up at sewerage plants or get washed up on the beach. Somebody may get hurt.
What should I do if someone has taken a drug overdose?
If you think someone has overdosed, call an ambulance immediately.
Phone 000 and say someone needs urgent medical attention. You can call 000 even if you have no credit on your phone. If there is no mobile coverage, your phone will tell you what number to use.
Out there Tell the ambulance officers as much as you can, like what drugs the person took, when they collapsed and any other health problems like asthma.
Am I old enough?
Common legal issues for young people An ambulance worker isn’t supposed to call the police. They might do this, however, if someone dies or if people feel threatened.
See also ‘Speaking to the police’ on page 66, ‘Where to get help’ on page 83.
Graffiti laws Am I old enough to buy spray paint cans?
It’s illegal for a business to sell you a spray can if you’re under 18 unless you can prove that the spray can is for your work. Get a letter or statutory declaration from your employer to say this. A statutory declaration is an official statement that is signed in front of an authorised person, such as a police officer, chemist or school principal.
Can I be searched by police for spray paint cans?
Yes but only if you’re:
• 14 or over (or if you ‘appear’ to be 14 or over. Carry ID if you’re under 14), and • on or near public transport and the police or protective services officers suspect you have spray paint cans.
The police can search you if they think you’ve already committed or are about to commit a graffiti offence. For example, if you have paint on your fingers and there’s wet graffiti nearby, the police officer is probably going to search you.
Police can search your bags and ask you to take off your coat, hat and shoes. You’ll also need to give them your name and address.
Protective services officers also have search powers at train stations and some designated areas around train stations. See ‘Protective services officers’ on page 78.
What happens if I am caught with spray paint?
Unless you can prove you’re using the paint for work, the police can
charge you with a graffiti offence for:
• carrying spray paint cans on or near public transport • carrying something that can be used to graffiti and the police suspect, or can prove, that you have used it (or were going to use it) for graffiti.
The police can give you an on-the-spot fine of at least $550 or the court could sentence you to up to two years in jail.
Protective services officers on duty at train stations can also fine you for carrying spray cans.
If you’re a student, your school could also suspend or expel you if you’re caught damaging school property with graffiti.
Weapons and the law There are strict rules for owning or carrying a weapon. There are big penalties too. The police could give you an on-the-spot fine or the court could order you to go to jail. Protective services officers on duty at train stations can also fine you. See ‘Protective services officers’ on page 78.
If you’re at school and the school thinks you’re carrying a weapon, your school principal or an authorised teacher can search you or your bag or locker and take any weapons they find or they can call the police to search you and your locker.
Guns The law says you can’t own or buy a gun until you turn 18. You must register the gun with the police and have a licence for it.
Out there If you’re aged between 12 and 17, you can get a licence for a gun from the police but only for learning how to use a gun for sport.
Am I old enough?
Common legal issues for young people
You’ll only get a licence if:
• your parents or guardian agree in writing • you’re a member of an approved shooting club • you’ve done a firearms safety course • you’re a responsible person.
If you get the licence, you can only use a gun with a person over 18 who has a shooter’s licence.
Anyone can use an airgun or air rifle in a shooting gallery at a show or amusement centre.
Other weapons The law says you can’t carry, possess or use a weapon to hurt people or to defend yourself. You can’t carry knives, like flick knives, daggers, butterfly knives or knuckle knives. It is a very serious offence to have a knife within 20 metres of licensed premises and the penalties are doubled. You also can’t carry weapons like nunchakus, batons, knuckle-dusters, shanghais, blow guns, capsicum spray, slingshots, weighted or studded gloves, throwing stars or catapults.
If you can prove you have a ‘lawful excuse’ (legal reason), you may carry or possess some weapons like a sword, large crossbow or imitation firearm. A lawful excuse could include having the weapon for work, for sport, for a weapons collection, display or exhibition.
Lawful excuse doesn’t include self-defence. You can only carry or possess some weapons if you do so safely.
If the police tell you they believe you’re illegally carrying a weapon, they can search you and your car without a warrant. If they find a weapon, they can take it from you.
See also ‘Speaking to the police’ on page 66.
What are ‘dangerous articles’?
Dangerous articles can include things like an axe, a cricket bat or a hammer.
You can’t carry or possess an object that has been adapted for use as a weapon unless you have a lawful excuse. It’s also an offence to carry an article with the intention to use it as a weapon.
In the case of dangerous articles, a lawful excuse can include having the weapon for work, for sport, for a weapons’ collection, display or exhibition, but not self-defence.
Am I a victim of crime?
No matter how old you are, if you’ve been hurt (physically or mentally) or have lost property or money as a result of a crime, you may be able to get financial help, compensation and counselling. Make sure you report the crime to the police as soon as you can. You can still apply to get compensation even if the person who did the crime doesn’t end up going to court or goes to court and is found ‘not guilty’.
If you are a victim of violence, including domestic violence, and the crime committed against you was serious enough, you may able to apply to the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) to get compensation. If you’re under 18 your parents or guardian have to apply. For more information, call the Victims of Crime Helpline.
See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 60.
you’re with an adult.
Am I old enough?
Common legal issues for young people Where to get more help and information Australian Drug Foundation – call 9278 8100 or visit www.adf.org.au Direct Line – for free, anonymous and confidential 24-hour drug and alcohol counselling, information and referral. Call 1800 888 236 (free call) or visit www.counsellingonline.org.au Frontyard Youth Services – call 1800 800 531 (free call) or visit www.frontyard.org Gambler’s Helpline – 24 hours, 7 days a week for free confidential telephone counselling and referral service on 1800 858 858. Or visit www.problemgambling.vic.gov.au Kids Helpline – call 1800 551 800 (24 hours, free call) or visit www.kidshelp.com.au Lawstuff – lots of legal topics for young people. Email them with your legal questions. Visit www.lawstuff.org.au Somazone – health information for young people.
Visit www.somazone.com.au Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal – call 9628 7855 or 1800 882 752 (free call) or visit www.vocat.vic.gov.au Victims of Crime Helpline – call 1800 819 817 Youth Support and Advocacy Service – 24 hours a day for confidential counselling and referral on 1800 014 446 (free call) or visit www.ysas.org.au
You might want a copy of our free booklet:
• Drugs, the law and safer injecting For copies call 9269 0223 or visit www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/publications
We all buy things. Sometimes it’s a small thing like a piece of clothing, sometimes it’s a bigger thing like a car or TV. Regardless of what you’re buying, there are laws about exchanging things you’ve bought and about contracts between the buyer and the seller. Spending more than you can afford is an easy trap to fall into. This section includes contacts for organisations that can help you manage your money.
What is a contract?
A contract is an agreement between two parties which the law says must be carried out. Most contracts do not have to be in writing.
You can have an oral contract. For example, when you buy something, you and the seller have made a contract with each other whether you signed anything or not. But if you’re buying a car, you do have to sign a written agreement.
Am I old enough to agree to a contract?
If you’re under 18, you have to stick to a contract if:
• you’ve bought things you need to live on, like food, housing, clothing or medicine • it helps you with employment or education • what was agreed to under the contract has already happened.
For example, if you bought something you won’t be able to get a refund just because you’re under 18.
Buying things If you’ve completed the contract – for example, you’ve paid all the
money – you may not be able to go back on the contract unless:
• the goods are faulty • the sales assistant told you the goods were for a particular purpose but they’re not – for example, the sales assistant told you that a plate was microwave safe but when you used it in the microwave it broke.
Am I old enough?
Common legal issues for young people What is a guarantor?
Because under-18-year-olds don’t have to stick to contracts except for the reasons above, shops and companies that lend money may not let you use a credit card or borrow money without a guarantor. A guarantor is someone aged 18 or over who promises that you’ll stick to your side of the contract and that they’ll pay if you don’t. If you don’t pay, the seller or moneylender can take the guarantor to court as well as taking legal action against you. Usually you can’t buy a car without a guarantor.
Exchanging goods and refunds Choose carefully when you buy something. The shop owner doesn’t legally have to give you a refund or exchange goods just because you change your mind. If you’re not sure about buying something, talk to the sales assistant.
Tell them what you want the goods for and find out if it’s what you need.
Some stores, like bigger department stores, will give you a refund or exchange goods if you change your mind but it’s up to the store.
The store does have to give you a refund if the goods are faulty or if the sales assistant told you the goods were suitable for a particular purpose but they weren’t. However, when you buy something it’s always worth asking the sales assistant if you can bring it back and get a refund or exchange if the goods aren’t right or if you change your mind. If the sales assistant says yes, then you should be able to get a refund or exchange. Keep the receipt as proof of your purchase.
Many shops have a sign near the cash register about their policy on exchanges and refunds. A sign that says ‘No refunds’ is illegal. Even a policy saying ‘No refunds on sale items’ is breaking the law.
A shop must give you a refund for goods that are faulty, regardless of whether you bought the goods on sale or not.
If you think you should get a refund but the shop refuses to give it to you, you can complain to Consumer Affairs Victoria or to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 65.
Private sales The laws about exchanging goods and getting a refund don’t apply to sales between private individuals, like friends or family. Make sure you buy what you want and that it works.