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Policies for repeat offenders

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Australia’s criminal justice system is complex, and sentences imposed for repeat offenders can vary across different states and territories. Additionally, laws and policies that are a part of the sentence imposed are subject to change. Because of that, it’s essential to consult the most recent legal sources or seek advice from legal professionals, such as those at Jameson Law, for the latest information.

When choosing a law firm, consider factors such as their expertise in criminal law, experience with cases similar to yours, and a good reputation in the legal community. Jameson Law, like many law firms, may have lawyers with a deep understanding of the local legal landscape, including the specific laws to repeat offending.

What is a repeat offender in Australia?

In Australia, there’s a big problem with people who keep breaking the law again and again. We call them “repeat offenders.” These are individuals who have been in trouble with the law, and even after they’ve been punished, they go on to commit the same or similar crimes. The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics tells us that about 60% of people who are let out of jail end up breaking the law again within two years. That number is even higher for younger people. Almost 80 per cent of juvenile offenders become a repeat offender for further offences within 10 years. Time and time again the same repeat offender is coming in front of the sentencing court. Reducing recidivism, or stopping people from committing repeat offences on separate occasions is an important part of a healthy society. In part, this may be coming from an overcrowding of our prisons. The NSW Prison Bureau recently published that the prisons currently operate at 112% occupancy.

If someone commits two serious sexual offences or traffic offences on different occasions, they can be called a “repeat offender.” Even if the crimes these repeat offenders and habitual criminals commit aren’t as bad, they still have a big impact on our society, public safety, and how much we trust the legal system.

A big reason why these repeat offenders act this way is because they face a lot of difficulties in their lives. Things like drug and alcohol addiction, mental health issues, not having the right skills for a job, and other problems play a role in why they keep breaking the law. It’s important to understand and address these difficulties to help them stop committing crimes and make our communities safer.

Laws for repeat offenders

In Australia, the law for repeat offenders in certain road-related offences is outlined in Section 4F(2) of the Road Transport (Alcohol and Drugs) Act 1977. According to this law, a “repeat offender” is defined as an individual who has been previously convicted or found guilty of a “relevant offence” at any time before committing the current “disqualifying offence.”

A “relevant offence” includes specific offences related to alcohol concentration, drug presence, refusal to provide samples, and driving under the influence. Importantly, the person can be considered a repeat offender even if they were not convicted of a similar offence at the time of committing the disqualifying offence. Essentially, such offenders are people who have committed previous offences before they then commit another offence which is considered a ‘disqualifying offence.’

A disqualifying offence can be many things. However, a sentencing judge tends to see most traffic offences or similar offences as those that can count. A “disqualifying offence” encompasses various violations, such as driving with a prescribed concentration of alcohol or drugs, refusing to provide samples, and other offences specified in the Act or prescribed by regulations.

Moreover, a “relevant offence” is broadly defined to include disqualifying offences, corresponding offences, or offences of culpable driving as per section 29 of the Crimes Act 1900. A “corresponding offence” refers to an offence against the laws of another jurisdiction that aligns with a disqualifying offence in New South Wales.

Consequences for repeat offenders

Harsher Penalties:

Repeat offenders often face more severe penalties, such as longer prison sentences and higher fines. Courts take into account the individual’s criminal history, which can influence the decision to impose a harsher punishment.

For example, if someone has previously been convicted of a similar offence, the court may be less lenient and opt for a more stringent sentence to deter further criminal behaviour.

Extended Probation or Parole:

Repeat offenders may be subjected to longer probation or parole periods, during which they must adhere to strict conditions set by the court. This could include regular check-ins with probation or parole officers, mandatory drug testing, and compliance with specific behavioural requirements.

The extended supervision aims to monitor the individual’s activities closely and reduce the risk of recidivism by providing necessary support and oversight.

Driving License Disqualification:

In cases involving traffic-related offences, repeat offenders may face more extended periods of license disqualification or even permanent revocation of their driving privileges. This consequence is especially relevant for offences such as driving under the influence (DUI) or reckless driving while speeding.

Losing the ability to drive can have significant practical implications for individuals, affecting their employment, daily activities, and overall quality of life.

Mandatory Programs:

Courts may mandate repeat offenders to participate in rehabilitation or counselling programs to address underlying issues contributing to criminal behaviour. These function as a form of preventive detention for a repeat offender. These programs aim to provide support, address substance abuse problems, or tackle mental health issues that may be contributing factors to their relevant offences.

The goal is to facilitate the offender’s rehabilitation, reduce the likelihood of future offences, and address the root causes of their criminal behaviour.

These consequences highlight the comprehensive approach the legal system takes to address repeat offences, combining punitive measures with rehabilitative efforts to deter criminal behaviour and promote positive change in the offender’s life. It’s important to recognize that the specific consequences can vary based on the nature and severity of the offences and the legal framework of the jurisdiction in question.


In New South Wales, a repeat offender generally refers to an individual previously convicted of a specific offence who commits the same or similar offence again. Penalties for repeat offences, such as traffic violations, can include more severe consequences, like extended license disqualifications and higher fines.

A serious repeat offender in South Australia, under the Sentencing Act 2017, is someone convicted of three serious offences on separate occasions. Serious offences include certain firearm offences and prescribed offences with a minimum 5-year imprisonment penalty. The court may declare the serious repeat offender provisions inapplicable if the defendant demonstrates exceptional personal circumstances outweighing community safety concerns. Additionally, two separate serious sexual offences can also lead to the classification of a serious repeat offender.

An offender can be referred to the Drug Court if they:

  • Plead Guilty

    • Have a serious drug problem

    • Agree to the program

    • have been charged with an offence which is ‘highly likely’ to lead to a jail sentence.

The Drug Court in New South Wales helps people who have problems with drugs and do some wrong things but not violent ones. It's a special court that aims to break the cycle of drug addiction and bad behaviour. If you got in trouble for drugs and it wasn't a violent thing, you can choose to join this court. They use a helpful approach, like counselling and treatment, to help you deal with drug issues. You'll be closely watched, and they'll check how you're doing in court regularly. If you do well, you might get rewards, but if not, there are consequences to help you stay on track. If you finish the program successfully, your punishment might be less or even go away. The court believes in community support and always tries to get better at helping people.

Without proper legal representation, individuals may face unfair treatment, difficulties navigating the legal system, and challenges in resolving legal issues. Adequate funding for aid is essential to ensure equal access to justice and protect the rights of all Australians.

In New South Wales, if someone keeps breaking the law, like driving under the influence, again and again, they face stricter consequences. This might mean longer times without a license and higher fines. The idea is to make sure repeat offenders understand the seriousness of their actions, keeping the public safe, and encouraging them to follow the rules. Jameson Law can help you navigate through whatever the legal system throw at you.


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