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Molly
April 30, 2012 | by  | in Features |
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Let’s Get Criminal!

A friendly guide on how to have a good time without (but maybe nearly) committing a crime.

Unless you’re some sort of sociopath, or look unusually attractive in mugshots, it’s fair to assume that getting arrested probably isn’t on your list of ‘things to do before I graduate.’

However, as students, with in-built penchants for binge-drinking and having a Good Time, we can get ourselves into a number of situations that may bring us a lot closer to the strong arm of the law than we ever intended.

Here at Salient, we know that the law can be a confusing place, full of craggy mires, used needles, and black holes. Especially for the Justice Issue, we’ve compiled a series of ‘pro-tips’ to keep your brushes with justice in the text-books, and keep your good names out of the law books.

Disclaimer: While this may appear to be a guide to how to be naughty and get away with it, I am in no way qualified to provide you with legal advice, nor am I encouraging any of you miscreants to commit crime. Cause we all know crime’s bad, right?

Public Urination:

A strong believer in the age-old adage ‘When you have to go, you have to go’, I have long-maintained that, if there is one crime I were to be convicted of, this would be it.

Popping a squat or taking a slash while you’re out on the town is a crime under sections 27 and 32 of the Summary Offences Act 1981, which respectively preclude exposing your genitals and excreting in a public place. Get caught up shit creek without your pants on, and you could face up to 3 months imprisonment or a $2000 fine.

Fortunately for those of us with weaker bladders, there is a defence attached to both offences, if you had “reasonable grounds for believing you would not be observed”.

To put that in context, a wee in the bush on the side of State Highway One is probably ok; pissing against the wall in plain view of the Big Kumara’s bouncer, maybe not.

Students vs Noise Control:

“Now, we go until they kick us out/Or the po-lice shut us down/Po-po shut us down”

We’ve all been there before; you’re having the time of your life, living it up, hooning the bevvies—hell, you’ve just put on Beyonce/Jay-Z’s ‘Crazy in Love’, and your lounge is more packed with grinding bodies than a beach-front club in Ibiza.

Then suddenly, with a firm knock on your door, a noise control officer (NCO) hands over a Noise Direction Notice, and you gotta shut the party dowwwwn.

Or do you?

According to Wellington City Council’s Noise Control policy, that piece of paper you’ve just been handed requires you to reduce noise immediately to what the NCO considers a “reasonable” level.

But if you decide that you want to run through Beyonce’s entire back-catalogue at full volume instead of turning it down and kicking everyone out, what are the consequences?

Well technically, our good friend Ke$ha had it right. NCOs are powerless to do much until they return accompanied by a police officer, so you really can go until the po-po shut you down. However, once the police are involved, NCOs are able to enter the property and seize any equipment that is causing the noise, and you will have to pay a princely sum to get it back. Alternatively, in some cases you could be fined up to $10,000.

I guess it depends how badly you want to listen to Bey, doesn’t it?

Dranks on Dranks on Dranks:

For many of us, life revolves around going out, drinking, and generally having a good time. And for the most part, during this grace period we call “higher education”, when we have as little responsibility as we have an abundance of tax-payer hand-outs, this lifestyle is one of ignorant bliss.

But beware! There are a few legal booby- traps that might befall you on your Friday night pursuit of happiness. While New Zealand has no specific law against being drunk in public, actually drinking in public may cause you a few problems.

Under section 147 of the Local Government Act 2002, it is up to your local council to decide where you can and cannot sink the brews. Wellington City’s Liquor Ban covers most of the city area, Aro Valley, Oriental Bay, Brooklyn, Newtown, and Mt Victoria’s summit (but not its steep and bushy sides—pro-tip for public drinking). In these areas, police have the right to search you or your vehicle for alcohol, seize that alcohol, and arrest you. In most cases though, you will simply be asked to pour out your drink or leave the area. And while these rules apply only to opened bottles and cans, the police can seize your unopened box of Brenner if they think you’re settling in on that park bench for a big night of drinking.

So during your next mindless, loud, and probably staggering migration from your house to Courtenay Place, make sure you down that Vodka Cruiser before you hit the city.

Get out of jail for free?

So let’s say that, despite all the good advice and warning your friendly student magazine has provided, you go out next weekend, do something immensely silly, and end up with a pair of handcuffs on your wrists (and we’re not talking the fluffy kind). Before you lose all hope and commit yourself to a life of crime, fear not! There may be a way out of this sticky situation yet, sweet child!

Diversion is a police scheme which allows offenders to avoid conviction in certain circumstances. At the discretion of the police, you may be offered diversion if you meet certain criteria, which include whether you have a criminal history, and the nature of the offence. Diversion is generally considered suitable for first-time offenders, and for minor offences such as liquor ban breaches and Class C drug possession.

If you are offered diversion, you will have to accept full responsibility for the offence, and in return for washing away your sins, you will be required to complete a number of conditions. These may include writing a letter of apology, completing counselling, or making a donation to charity, and
must be completed before your charge is removed.

he important thing to remember is that, while diversion may one day save your ass, it is at the complete discretion of the police, and there’s not much you can do about it if they don’t offer it to you. In short, consider diversion a possible life- saver once you’ve already been arrested, but don’t rely on it as a guaranteed pass-out if you’re thinking about getting criminal.

POssession:

In health class we are taught that if you ever take any drug ever you will lose all your teeth, steal from your family, and be forced to sell your body to fund your inevitable drug habit. Once you leave the Good vs Evil dichotomy of third form, however, the situation becomes a little unclear.

When eccies practically grow on trees at Rhythm and Vines, and there is a cloud of dope smoke that never fades around the corner from the District Court, it can be easy to begin to normalise the presence of drugs and their use in our day-to-day lives.

However, while it is likely that most people you know (even mum and dad) will have had a dabble in the dak at some point in their lives, the legal consequences of getting off your face can be a sobering thought.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, all your favourite pills, powders, and plants are neatly arranged into Classes A, B and C, which gauge the seriousness of being caught possessing, supplying, or making those drugs. For example, possession of a Class B/C drug (eg. ecstasy/cannabis) carries a maximum penalty of 3 months imprisonment or a $500 fine, whereas possession of a Class A drug (eg. Acid) could land you with a maximum of 6 months imprisonment. In addition, amongst the myriad of black marks you may incur against your name in a lifetime, drug offences are taken particularly seriously when you are travelling overseas, especially to the United States.

Those are pretty hefty consequences for getting caught with half a tab at a music festival, right? Of course, those are the maximum penalties; discretion will be exercised given the circumstances, and diversion may be available to you (see above).

We’re not out to scare you all by claiming that one instance of drug experimentation will make you an addict, but it is important to know that there are very real consequences should you get caught. We’re all adults here, so while Salient does not in any way endorse the use of any illegal drug, if you’re going to indulge, be smart about it.

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