Formal cautions

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A caution is a formal warning.

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What crimes can I get a formal caution for?

You can only get a caution if you admit that you did commit the crime.

There are a number of different factors that police will take into account when deciding whether to give you a caution, or a more serious ‘enforcement action.’ These are set out in the Victoria Police Manual and include:

  • How serious the crime was;
  • Your circumstances and the victim’s circumstances;
  • How much damage or injury you caused;
  • Whether a caution would deter you, or others, from doing the crime again;
  • The number of people you’ve hurt or affected; and
  • If you have a previous record of getting cautions.

If the offence is shoplifting, it needs to be less than $100 of value and it must not involve stealing from more than one shop.

If the offence relates to drugs, the offender must give consent for the caution to be issued.

If the offence relates to sexual offences, a caution will only be issued in exceptional circumstances.

For cautions given to children between 10 and 18 years old, a parent or guardian must consent to and be present when the caution is issued.

How are cautions given?

You would have been given a written document and, in most circumstances, your parents would have been told. This will generally be done at the police station after an interview.

What happens after I receive a caution?

Cautions are recorded in a police document called a Brief Register, and are also kept in the police station’s file. Only the police can see this and they will generally use it only if you get in trouble again.If you already have a caution, it is unlikely that you will receive another one in future and you may have to go to court.

Will formal cautions show up on my criminal record?

A police caution does not get wiped when you turn 18. It will remain in police files. BUT, even though a police caution is kept on file, police cautions do NOT give you a criminal record. This means no one other than the police can find out that you have been given a police caution, and it will NOT come up in a criminal background check.

The caution will generally not affect your ability to get a job in the future. As we said, the formal caution will not come up in a criminal background check. So your potential employer will not find out that you received a police caution. You do not need to disclose the caution to a future employer.The main way that a police caution affects you is that it is less likely that the police will be lenient next time you do something wrong, especially if you do something similar.

If you’re worried about a criminal record or criminal history for something you did when you were 18 or under, please contact us here, and we can give you some advice.

If you are under 25 and have a question about cautions, please contact us here.

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