A person commits this offence when they assault a police officer knowing the officer was acting in the course of their duty or in retribution for something the police officer has done in the course of their duty.
Under the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) it is Assault (aggravated offence) attracting a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment [s 20]. Where harm is caused the maximum penalty increases to 4 years imprisonment (with a maximum penalty of 5 years if a weapon is involved).
Alternatively, the police may charge an offender for assaulting a police officer under s 6 of the Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA). The maximum penalty in this case is a fine of up to $10 000 or imprisonment for 2 years, compensation can also be ordered to be paid to the victim.
Another offence under section 6 of the Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA) is hindering police. A person who resists or hinders police in the excecution of the officer's duty is guilty of an offence.
Maximum penalty: $2500 or imprisonment for 6 months, compensation can also be ordered to be paid to the victim.
The scope of a police officer's duty has been widely interpreted by the courts. Police officers must take all lawful steps that seem necessary to them for keeping the peace, preventing crime, and protecting people or property from criminal injury or damage. This applies whether the officer is rostered for work or not.
However, where the police officer's actions are outside of that duty, or the officer acts illegally, a charge under this section cannot succeed. For example, a police officer who uses more force than is reasonably necessary to arrest a suspect is not acting in the execution of his or her duty.
Hinder means any obstruction or interference that makes a police officer's duty more difficult to perform. It includes, but is not limited, to physical obstruction. For example, a person who deliberately stands in the way of police officers or who argues with them when they are trying to arrest another person may be guilty of the offence of hindering police.
Unlike hinder, resistrequires actual physical resistance. Simply not doing what a member of the police force asks, or arguing about it, does not mean that a person resists. However, the physical resistance need not necessarily be an assault - for example, the action of pulling away from an officer's grasp may be enough.
Sometimes there can be no clear distinction between assaulting, hindering and resisting. These charges are often laid in situations where there is fighting and confusion and are used by the police to remove people from the area and to restore order. Hindering is often charged when a third person intervenes in an arrest of a person. Resist on the other hand, is often charged when someone resists a lawful arrest.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.