«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? ...»
Buying ‘dodgy’ goods If you’re buying things from friends or privately, like at a market or second-hand stall, check that the person selling the goods has the right to sell them. This means that the goods aren’t stolen. It’s worth asking for proof of ownership or evidence that the seller has authority to sell. If the goods are stolen, the original owner may be able to claim them back. If you are buying an expensive item, like a car, you can check the Personal Properties Securities Register to make sure that the owner is not still paying it off. See ‘Where to get more help and information’ on page 65.
Buying things online If buying from an online store, check what that store’s refund or return policy is before you pay. Make sure you know what you’re paying for.
Do you pay for it once? Do you have to make repeat payments?
Some sites have services that can help you sort out disputes with sellers, for example, if what you bought doesn’t match the item’s description.
Other private online sales can be risky. The person you’re buying from may live in another state or overseas so getting your money back may be hard. You might be able to get help from your credit card provider.
Some providers have services to help when online purchases go wrong.
See ‘How can I stay safe online’ on page 13.
Am I old enough? Common legal issues for young people
Am I old enough to get a mobile phone contract?
You have to be 18 to sign a mobile phone contract. Often young people ask their parents to sign the contract. This means your parents have to pay if you can’t. Technically the contract can be transferred into your name once you’re 18. In reality this can be hard as you need to have a credit check, more than one form of ID and a credit card.
You can get a prepaid phone at any age.
If you’re thinking about getting a mobile phone, remember:
• There’s no such thing as a free phone. There’s always a catch.
The cost of ‘free’ handsets may be included in the monthly bill or may mean higher call costs. Check the contract for hidden costs.
Shop around and get advice.
• Work out if you can afford to pay the minimum monthly payment for the whole contract period, which can be as long as three years.
Once you sign up, it’s hard to break the contract.
• The person who signs the contract is responsible for paying the bills or making sure the bills get paid.
• Read and understand the contract. If you don’t understand it, don’t sign it.
• If your phone is stolen, lost or cut-off because of non-payment of bills, you still have to pay out the rest of your contract.
• All calls are timed. So if you talk for ages, bills will be expensive.
One way of making sure you don’t end up with a huge bill is to get a prepaid account.
• If you download ringtones or pictures to your mobile, check it is a one-off download and not a subscription service that sends you more ringtones or pictures that you have to pay for. Keep the ‘unsubscribe’ information so you can stop the service.
• If your phone gets stolen, ring your phone company immediately.
You pay for all calls until the phone is reported missing.
• If you buy a second-hand phone make sure the SIM card is unlocked. Some carriers charge to unlock SIM cards.
• If you want to take your phone to school, check first if there is a rule about mobile phones. Some schools don’t let students take phones to school.
Where to get more help and information Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – call 1300 302 502 or visit www.accc.gov.au Consumer Action Law Centre – call their Legal Advice Line 9629 6300 or 1300 881 020 or visit www.consumeraction.org.au Consumer Affairs Victoria:
- call 1300 558 181. Open Monday to Friday, 8.30 am to 5.00 pm
- visit www.consumer.vic.gov.au
- or go to their walk-in service centre located at 113 Exhibition St, Melbourne.
Personal Property Securities Register – visit www.ppsr.gov.au Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman – for complaints about bills, contracts, coverage and network faults call free on 1800 062 058 Victoria Legal Aid Legal Help – call 9269 0120 or 1800 677 402 (country callers), Monday to Friday, 8.45 am to 5.15 pm Buying things
Am I old enough? Common legal issues for young people
Police, bouncers and transport inspectors When dealing with the police, security guards, protective services officers or public transport inspectors it’s important to try to stay calm and polite. Don’t resist and don’t be abusive or violent. Be firm about your rights. If you’re not happy with how you were treated, you can make a complaint.
Speaking to the police
Your main rights if you’re under 18:
• the right to legal advice • the right to say 'no comment' – also known as the right to silence • the right to let someone know if you’re arrested • the right to have an adult with you during questioning.
In general, you have the right not to answer any questions, except those about your name and address. For example, you could answer ‘no comment’ or stay silent to all other questions. It can be a good idea to use this right because what you say to the police, no matter when or where, could be used as evidence to arrest or charge you, or it might be used against you in court.
There is no such thing as ‘off the record’ Sometimes police might ask to talk to you informally or ‘off the record’.
There is no such thing as ‘off the record’ – the police can use any information you give them. Always tell the police you want to use your right to remain silent.
If you’re interviewed, held, arrested, charged or about to be charged, always get legal advice, see ‘Where to get help’ on page 83.
If you threaten to hurt or assault the police, the police could charge you with ‘resisting arrest’ or ‘hindering police in the exercise of their duty’.
Do I have to give police my name and address?
It’s a criminal offence to refuse to give your name and address, or to give false details to the police or public transport officers. The police
may ask for your name and address because they believe:
• you’ve broken the law • you’re about to break the law • you’re able to help them with information about an indictable (serious) offence.
The police must tell you why they want your details. If they don’t give you a reason, you should ask for it.
The police can demand your name and address without giving a
reason if you’re:
• driving a car, motorbike, boat or bicycle • on the tram, train, bus or on public transport property (public transport officers can also ask for your name and address) • in a hotel or licensed premises (staff can also ask for your age).
If police want you to go with them to a police station, you can refuse
unless they are arresting you or in special circumstances such as:
Police, bouncers and transport inspectors • when you’re driving and they want to do a breathalyser or drug test • they’re investigating a report of family violence • they believe you’re mentally impaired and need to be taken into custody.
Always ask why they want you to go with them. If you ask the police, they must also give you their name, police station and rank. You can ask for this in writing.
Do I have to let police search my mobile phone?
If the police stop you to ask for your name and address, then ask to look at information stored on your mobile phone, such as text messages, photos or emails, you can refuse. Police need to get a court order to search your phone. It is a good idea to use a password to protect the information you store on your phone.
Am I old enough?
Common legal issues for young people When can the police search me?
Police have the right to search you:
• at any time in a public place if they believe you may be carrying illegal drugs, stolen goods or weapons • if you’re under 18 and they suspect you’re going to inhale a volatile substance (chroming). It’s not a crime to chrome. The police can stop you and take you somewhere safe if they think you’ll hurt yourself by chroming • if you’re in custody or under arrest if they believe you’re carrying a weapon.
You must be searched by a police officer of the same sex as you, unless it’s an urgent situation and there’s no-one of the same sex available.
If the police search you, they can also:
• search anything you’re carrying • search the car you’re travelling in • take things from you that could be used as evidence.
If the police search you they must make a record of this. You can ask for a copy of the record. If police search you for a weapon, they must give you a copy of this record if you ask for it.
Where can the police search me?
In general The police can search you in any public place including a shop, at the train station, on public transport (buses, trams or trains) or in a hospital or welfare centre.
In ‘designated’ search areas The police have the power to search you in certain ‘designated’ areas, even if there’s no reason to suspect that you’re carrying illegal drugs, stolen goods or a weapon.
A designated area is a place where:
• there was more than one incident of violence involving weapons in the last 12 months • there’s going to be an event in that area and there were violent incidents involving weapons when the event was on before (even if the event was somewhere else) • the police think that an incident involving the use of weapons is about to happen.
The police must publicise that they’re going to do a search. The police do not have to do this if they’re searching areas where they believe there’s going to be a weapons-related offence and doing a search will stop this from happening. The areas can stay ‘designated areas’ for usually no more than 12 hours.
If you refuse to be searched within this designated search area, the police can charge you with refusal to be searched.
The police don’t have to make a record of these searches. If you ask them to, the police officer searching you must tell you their name, rank and the police station they’re from. You can also ask them to put this Police, bouncers and transport inspectors in writing.
Searches, other than searches with an electronic metal detector, must be conducted in the presence of your parent, guardian or an independent person, unless it is not practical for police to get them to be there.
The police can also strip search you if they believe that you’re carrying a weapon. Police must record any strip search that they do in a designated area.
For more information about ‘Weapons and the law’, see page 57.
Protective services officers also have search powers at train stations and some designated areas around train stations. See ‘Protective services officers’ on page 78.
Am I old enough?
Common legal issues for young people Are there different types of searches?
Yes, there are three types of personal searches the police can do:
• pat-down search: this is the most common type of search where police use their hands to feel over the outside of your clothes.
They may also ask you to empty your pockets or take off your jacket, shoes or hat. The police can use a metal detector to look for something they ‘reasonably suspect’ is a weapon. These searches can be done in public or private.
• strip search: the removal and search of all clothing. The police must do these searches in a private place, usually at a police station. A parent, guardian or independent person can usually be with you during the search.
• internal body search: only doctors can do these. The doctor must be the same sex as you. You have the right to say no if the police want to do an internal body search. The police may ask the court for permission to do the search. They must have very strong evidence to justify the search.
In all cases: Talk to a lawyer as soon as possible if you are not happy with how the search was done. See ‘Where to get help’ on page 83.
Your rights before police questioning You have rights. This includes the right to remain silent. You should talk to a lawyer about this before the questioning starts. Also, the police
must let you:
• call a lawyer from a private space (this means somewhere that the police can’t hear you). The police may be able to call a legal advice line for you • call a friend or relative from a private space. However, the police don’t have to allow this if it is a driving matter involving drinking
or drugs or if they believe that during this time:
– someone else involved in the crime might get away – some evidence may be lost or tampered with – other people may be in danger.
Your rights during police questioning If you’re under 18, the police must not formally question you unless your parents or guardian are there – unless you don’t want them there.
If your parents or guardian can’t be there, the police must arrange for an independent person to be with you during questioning. You must be given the chance to talk privately to your parents, guardian or the independent person before the questioning.
While you’re waiting to speak to them, you should refuse to answer any questions after giving your name and address.
The independent person is there to make sure you and the police understand each other and that you understand your rights. They don’t give legal advice. Either you or the police can suggest who will be the independent person.
If an independent person is not with you during questioning, the court Police, bouncers and transport inspectors may decide that the information can’t be used as evidence.