When you plead guilty, or are found guilty of a criminal or traffic offence under NSW law, the Court has the discretion not to convict you but to deal with you under the provisions of section 10.
“Section 10” refers to section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW). This section allows a Court to dismiss your matter without recording a conviction when you are found guilty of an offence. Because there is no conviction, there is no criminal record, no loss of drivers license and no other penalty. There are three types of section 10’s:
- Section 10(1)(a): Outright dismissal
- Section 10(1)(b): Conditional dismissal with a good behaviour bond
- Section 10(1)(c): Conditional dismissal with a rehabilitation course
If you receive a section 10 for a traffic matter, the RMS does not impose the demerit points for that offence.
An outright dismissal under section 10(1)(a) involves the Court dismissing the offence without any conditions. The matter is completely over as soon as you walk out of the Court room.
Conditional dismissal with a good behaviour bond
A Court can dismiss a charge under section 10(1)(b), but require you to enter into a good behaviour bond for a period of up to 2 years. The bond can have any conditions which the Court thinks is relevant and necessary. At a minimum these include :
- That you be of good behaviour (that is, that you do not commit any further offences);
- That you advise the Court of any change of address; and,
- That you appear before the Court if called upon to do so.
If you breach any of the conditions of the bond, the Court can call your matter up before it, revoke the bond and impose a different sentence for the offence. This is the most popular way that a court deals with an offender under section 10.
If your matter is dealt with by way of section 10(1)(b), the offence will appear on your criminal record for the duration of your bond. Once your good behaviour bond period ends without incident, the offence automatically is extinguished from your criminal record.
Conditional dismissal with an intervention course
This refers to a dismissal which is conditional on you entering an intervention program of some kind, completing that program successfully and complying with any action plan that results from that program.
How to avoid a criminal record?
Courts do not give out section 10’s easily. Normally a Courts will need a lot of convincing before granting you a section 10. In deciding whether to deal with a matter by way of a section 10, the Court must consider the following issues:
- Your age, character, record, health and mental condition;
- The trivial nature of the offence;
- Any extenuating circumstances; and,
- Anything else the Court think is relevant.
The Commonwealth equivalent to a section 10 is a “discharge without conviction”, pursuant to section 19B of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth). This applies only where an offender has been convicted of a Commonwealth offence. Similar to a section 10, a discharge without conviction means that the court is satisfied that the charge is proven, but will not record a conviction.
In order to benefit from this order, the court can have regard to:
- The character, criminal history, age, health or mental condition of the person charged;
- The trivial nature of the offence;
- The extenuating circumstances to the commission of the offence.
If the Court is satisfied that is appropriate to deal with the offence by way of a discharge without conviction, the Court will either dismiss the charge unconditionally, or discharge on the condition that they enter into a good behaviour bond for up to three years.