COVID-19: Criminal offences

There are some new criminal offences that you could be charged with that have been introduced as part of the rules and restrictions during COVID-19.

There are also some existing offences that you could be charged with that are related to COVID-19 and some offences that have increased penalties if committed in COVID-19 related circumstances.

These are summarised below.

Creating false belief of COVID-19

If you tell anyone that you have COVID-19 when this is not true, you can be charged with “creating a false belief”. The maximum penalty for this offence is 2 years imprisonment (12 months imprisonment and $12,000 fine if dealt with in the Magistrates Court).

Breach of VRO or FVRO

Parliament has increased the maximum penalty for breaches of violence restraining orders or family violence restraining orders to a $10,000 fine and/or 2 years imprisonment.

Assault and threats against public officers 

These are new offence specifically relating to COVID-19. 

If you are found guilty of assaulting a public officer, such as a doctor, nurse, police officer, paramedic or prison officer, in circumstances where you know you have COVID-19 or you create a belief, suspicion or fear that you have COVID-19 (for example, by saying that you have COVID-19), you could face up to 10 years imprisonment. “Assault” includes spitting or coughing on someone. 

If you are found guilty of threatening to injure, endanger or harm a public officer by exposing them to COVID-19, you could face up to 7 years imprisonment.

Breach of emergency management Directions

It is also a new offence to fail to comply with any of the emergency management Directions issued by the WA Government in relation to COVID-19, including Directions about self-isolation, community gatherings, community activities and travel. 

The maximum penalty if you are deal with by a court is 12 months imprisonment and a fine of $50,000. However, police may instead issue you with an infringement notice to pay $1,000. If you dispute the infringement it must be dealt with in court. The penalty for a corporation is higher - a fine of up to $250,000 may be imposed by a court and police may issue an infringement of $5,000.

For more information see:

Electronic monitoring

If you are in quarantine and have been directed by an authorised officer to wear an electronic monitoring device, or to permit one to be installed in your home, and you fail to do so, you can be punished with up to 12 months imprisonment or a fine of $12,000. The same penalty applies if you remove or interfere with such a device.

Get help

If you need help with your legal problem you can contact Legal Aid WA through our Infoline or web Infochat service.

If you are charged and attending court, the Legal Aid WA Criminal Law Duty Lawyer Service can assist you. See COVID-19: Service changes for information about how this service is currently operating.


Reviewed: 20 May 2020

Disclaimer

The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.