Breaking the law in a public place

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    A public place is anywhere that is open to, or used by, the public (either for free or for a fee)—for example, a street a shop, railway or bus station or in some parking areas.

    There are laws about what you can and can’t do and how to behave in a public place so that members of the public can use and move through public places peacefully.

    If you’re charged with an offence, you should get legal advice.

    Illegal behaviour in a public place

    You’re breaking the law if you:

    • commit a public nuisance offence—this includes behaviour that's offensive, disorderly, threatening, violent or if what you're doing interferes with someone else moving through, or peacefully being in and enjoying a public place
    • urinate in a public place (not including public toilets)
    • beg for money or goods in a public place (this doesn’t apply to people registered to ask for donations to a charity or to authorised buskers)
    • expose your genitals in a public place or in a place where your genitals can be seen from a public place
    • are intoxicated in a public place.

    The police can give you an on-the-spot fine for public nuisance offences. There’s no conviction recorded for an on-the-spot fine, but the police will keep a record of it having been issued that could later be used in court.

    Alternatively, police can arrest and charge you with a public nusiance offence and you must go to Court. If you're charged with one of these offences, you should get legal advice.

    There can be more serious penalties for committing some of these types of offences in or near a licensed premise.

    Being moved on

    A police officer may tell you to leave a public place or a regulated place and not return within a reasonable time (no more than 24 hours) if they reasonably suspect that:

    • your presence or behaviour is causing anxiety to someone (and that anxiety is reasonable in the circumstances )
    • your presence or behaviour is interfering with trade or business, by getting in the way of people entering or leaving a place
    • your presence or behaviour is disrupting an event, or gathering, at the place
    • your behaviour is disorderly, indecent, offensive or threatening to someone else.

    The police officer must tell you why you are being told to leave.

    If a police officer asks you to leave—you should do so. If you don't comply you may be breaking the law by contravening a direction or requirement of police.

    Prostitution and sex workers

    There are laws covering prostitutes and other sex workers and their clients. Prostitution in licensed brothels is legal in Queensland, but street prostitution is illegal.

    Without a licence, permit or authority it’s against the law to:

    • offer someone sex for money or money for sex
    • accept the offer
    • participate directly or indirectly, in any service (such as making a phone call, arranging transport, allowing the use of premises) which enables prostitution to occur.

    If you’re charged with an offence, you should get legal advice.

    Do I need legal advice?

    You may need legal advice if you’ve been:

    • charged with an offence and are going to court
    • issued with an on-the-spot fine for a public nuisance offence and want to know the consequences of it appearing in your criminal history.

    How to get legal advice

    We may give legal advice about breaking the law in a public place. We can’t provide a lawyer to attend a police interview with you.

    The following organisations may be able to give legal advice.

    Community legal centres may give free preliminary legal advice and information on some criminal law matters. Most of them don’t provide legal representation. Contact them to find out if they can help with your matter.

    Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice and representation.

    If you’re charged with an offence, you should ask police prosecutions for a copy of your Queensland Police form 9 (QP9) — this is a written summary of the police version of why you were charged and what happened. You should get your QP9 before getting legal advice. You can get your QP9 from the police prosecutor on your first court date (the duty lawyer may be able to help you). If you can’t collect it on your first court date you’ll need to apply to police prosecutions for a copy. You’ll need to make a written request and show photo ID.

    Who else can help?

    These organisations may also be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.

    The Department of Justice and Attorney-General gives information about going to court to help defendants and witnesses.

    Queensland Courts provides information about the:

    • Supreme Court
    • Court of Appeal
    • District Court
    • Magistrates Court
    • Coroners Court
    • Childrens Court of Queensland
    • Land Court.

    Disclaimer: This content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.

    Last updated 11 April 2023