Dishonesty Offences

The definitions and maximum penalties associated with various Dishonesty offences in South Australia

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Dishonesty Offences (Theft Robbery etc)

Dishonesty offences are acts designed to deceive other people. These offences are treated seriously in South Australia. Jail time is almost certain for these offences. However, like every offence, penalties can be mitigated. But, you must seek independent legal advice immediately.


Theft offences are viewed very seriously by the Courts. The maximum jail time for theft is 15 years for an aggravated offence and 10 years for a basic theft offence.

The Offence

A person will be guilty of theft if the person deals with property dishonestly and without consent of the owner, intending to either permanently deprive the owner of the property or to make a serious encroachment on the owner’s proprietary rights.

The following are definitions of the terms underlined above.

Deals with: This refers to taking, obtaining, receiving, converting or disposing.

Property: This includes money, intangible property (not physical property), things in action, electricity, tame or captive wild creatures, or wild creatures in the course of capture.

Ownership: This includes entitlement to the property via possession or control, a proprietary interest, or other legal rights with respect to the property.

Without Consent: This largely speaks for itself. But, there will be no consent of the owner where the consent was obtained through deceptive conduct.

Dishonestly:  For a person to act dishonestly, they must be acting dishonestly in accordance to the standards of ordinary people in society and know that they are acting in such a way. This is a complicated question of fact to be determined by the jury’s own knowledge and experience.

Permanently Deprive: This means to take a piece of property away from the owner permanently.

Serious Encroachment: This means treating the property as an owner regardless of the owner’s rights, or to deal with the property creating a substantial risk that the owner will not get it back or that its value will be impaired.

What must the Police prove for the charge of Theft?

 The Police must be able to prove that you:

  • Dealt with;
  • Property;
  • Dishonestly;
  • Owned by another;
  • Without their consent; and
  • Intending to either deprive them permanently, or, to seriously encroach their rights to that property.

This is very difficult for the Police to prove looking at the complexity of the points that need to be satisfied for a theft charge. An experienced lawyer could successfully defend this charge.

How can I defend this charge?

 There are many ways to defend a charge of theft. Some of the possible methods are:

  • To disprove the elements of the theft offence;
  • Argue and prove that you received the property in the honest but mistaken belief that the ownership had passed to you – this is called honest and reasonable mistake of fact; or
  • Argue and prove that you kept or dealt with the property with the belief that the identity or whereabouts of the owner cannot be discovered by taking reasonable steps.
Which Court will hear this matter?

 Usually the District Court will hear this matter this matter but this depends upon the seriousness of the theft case.

Making Off Without Payment

 This offence is treated seriously by the Courts in SA. The maximum penalty for this offence is two years imprisonment.

The Offence

A person who, knowing that payment for goods or services is required or expected, dishonestly makes off intending to avoid payment is guilty of this offence.

What acts constitute Making Off Without Payment?

Two examples of “Making Off Without Payment” are :

Where a person orders a meal at a restaurant and slips out of the restaurant without paying.
Where a person leaves a taxi and runs off without paying.

How can I defend this charge?

A skilled lawyer can disprove this charge in a number of ways. If the transaction for the supply of goods or services is illegal then this charge may not apply. If you have been charged with “Making Off Without Payment” , you need to talk with an Adelaide criminal lawyer who will explain the possible defences available for this charge.


 In SA, Robbery is treated extremely seriously by the Court. The maximum penalty for this offence is 15 years imprisonment for a basic offence and imprisonment for life for an aggravated offence.

The Offence

 A person who commits theft is guilty of robbery if the person:

  • Uses force, or threatens to use force, against another in order to commit the theft; or
  • Uses force, or threatens to use force, against another in order to escape from the scene of the offence; and
  • The force is used, or the threat is made, at the time of, or immediately before or after, the theft.

If two or more persons jointly commit robbery in company of each other, each is guilty of aggravated robbery. This is extremely serious and you may face extreme penalties.

Actions that Constitute Robbery

Below are some of the actions that may constitute robbery:

  • Walking into a petrol station with a gun forcing the shop assistant to fill your bag with cash and you escape with a bag of cash;
  • Striking a civilian over the head with a big rock in order to steal their wallet;
  • You walk into a petrol station with a friend. Your friend assaults the attendant while you take money from the till. Both of you will be charged with aggravated robbery.
How can I defend my charge?

There may be a number of ways to defend this charge given the amount of factors that the Police must prove and the factual complexities in doing so. For example, a lawyer may be able to prove that there was neither force nor a threat made in order to neither commit the theft nor escape from the scene. In this case, the robbery may not be proven.

Which Court will hear my charge?

This depends upon the seriousness of the situation. Nevertheless, the charge is likely to be heard in the District Court.

Dishonest Manipulation of a Machine

In SA, this offence is treated very seriously. The maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment for this offence. It is highly recommended that you seek professional legal advice for this charge.

The Offence

You may be guilty of the offence in two ways:

(1) You may be guilty of this offence if you dishonestly manipulate a machine in order to benefit yourself or another, or cause detriment to another; or

 (2) To take advantage of a malfunction of a machine in order to benefit yourself or another or cause detriment to another.

Definition of Terms

Manipulate: Use of the machine to produce a particular result or effect and any act that affects how the machine operates or the result or effect of the machine’s operation; 

Taking Advantage of a Machine Malfunction:  This is self-explanatory.

Machine: A machine, computer or device that stores information in electronic, magnetic or other form and includes anything designed for operation with such a machine, such as a credit card, smart card or other device.

Benefit: This includes a benefit of a proprietary nature, a financial advantage or benefit by exercise of a public duty.

Detriment to another: This includes a financial disadvantage, loss of opportunity to gain a benefit or detriment caused by exercise of a public duty.

What actions may constitute the Dishonest Manipulation of a Machine?

The following are some examples of Dishonest Manipulation of a Machine: 

  • Placing a magnet over your husband’s a credit card to disable him from accessing his own bank account or obtain money by electronic transfer.
  • Winding back an odometer on a car from 150,000 kilometres to 90,000 kilometres and putting the car up for sale at a car yard or private sale.
What must the prosecution prove?

 The prosecution must prove that you:

  • Manipulated a machine; or
  • Took advantage of a machine malfunction;
  • Dishonestly; to either
  • Obtain a benefit for self or another person; or
  • Cause detriment to another person.

Do I need a lawyer to represent me for a dishonesty offence or theft?

Absolutely. There are many defenses to argue to successfully beat a dishonesty charge, as well as lessening the penalty. If you are worried about imprisonment, fines or having a criminal record, we urge that you contact a lawyer immediately. Our solicitors specialize in these matters and will use their experience and expertise to lead you through the process to the best possible outcome. Remember, all cases are arguable and defendable!

Where to Next?

In South Australia, you can see that these offences are treated very seriously. It is therefore important to get the best legal advice as early as possible. Call the best – Call Liptak Lawyers on (08) 8123 1808

Police Adelaide Criminal Lawyer Defending Theft Robbery Charges

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