Laws you’re breaking without even knowing it

Chances are you have broken the law without even realising, with a prominent legal firm outlining 14 of Australia’s most obscure – and laughable – laws.

The list, compiled by criminal lawyer Veronika Drago at Slater and Gordon, comes after a man in Brisbane was fined $252 for trying to travel with a fridge on a train, which broke a little-known ban on oversized items on public trains.

Among the more lighthearted offences are vacuum cleaning, singing and fake jobs ads, while at the more serious end of the spectrum is dealing with pirates.

Whether you have partaken in the below for business purposes or for pleasure, you may need to think twice before doing so again!

Fourteen of Australia’s most obscure laws by state:

NSW:

1. Drivers can be fined up to $2,200 for not taking enough care to avoid splashing mud on public bus passengers [Regulation 291-3, Road Rules 2014 (NSW)].

Victoria:

2. It is an offence in Victoria to fly a kite to “the annoyance of any person” in a public place. Maximum penalty is a $777.30 fine [Section 4, Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)].

3. Singing an obscene song or ballad in a public place can attract a maximum fine of $1,554.60 or two months imprisonment; $2,331.90 fine or three months imprisonment for a second offence; $3,886.50 fine or six months’ imprisonment for a third or subsequent offence [Section 17, Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)].

4. It is illegal to correspond or do business with pirates. The maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment [Section 70C, Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)].

5. It is an offence in Victoria to make unreasonable noise with a vacuum cleaner after 10pm or before 7am on weekdays, and 9am on weekends [Section 48A, Environment Protection Act 1970 (Vic); Regulation 6, Environment Protection (Residential Noise) Regulations 2008 (Vic)].

The noise will be considered unreasonable if it can be heard in a ‘habitable’ room in any other residential property, whether they have the door or window open or closed.

Police or the council can direct you to stop making the noise for 72 hours and a breach of their direction can carry a fine of up to $18,655.20, with an extra fine up to $4,663.80 per day for continuing noise violations.

Queensland:

6. It is illegal to post a fake job advertisement, or publish false notices about engagements, births, deaths or funerals. Maximum penalty is a $1,219 fine or six months imprisonment (Section 21, Summary Offences Act 2005 [Qld)].

Western Australia:

7. Challenging another person to a duel is punishable by a maximum $6,000 fine or two years imprisonment [Section 72, Criminal Code Act 1913 (WA)].

8. You can be jailed for up to a year for cleaning up seabird or bat poo (guano) without a licence [Section 387, Criminal Code Act 1913 (WA)].

9. It is an offence to make a sign that offers a reward for the return of stolen or lost property if you promise not to ask any questions. Maximum penalty: $2,000 fine [Section 138, Criminal Code Act 1913 (WA)].

10. It is illegal to carry a weapon in most circumstances, but a lawful excuse exists for electrified briefcases [Section 68A, Criminal Code Act 1913 (WA)].

11. It is an offence to be in possession of more than 50kg of potatoes in WA, unless you have purchased the potatoes from a grower or retailer authorised by the Potato Corporation.

Police also have the power to stop and search a vehicle suspected of carrying more than 50kg of potatoes. The maximum penalty is a $2,000 fine for a first offence or a $5,000 fine for subsequent offences, as well as a further penalty up to twice the value of the potatoes [Section 22, Marketing of Potatoes Act 1946 (WA)].

South Australia:

12. Obstructing or disturbing a wedding, funeral or religious service is an offence that carries a maximum fine of $10,000 or two years imprisonment [Section 7A, Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA)].

13. It is an offence to sell a fridge with a capacity of 42.5 litres or more, unless all of the doors can be easily opened from the inside or it was brought into the state before 1 January 1962. Maximum penalty is a $750 fine [Section 58B, Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA)].

14. A $250 maximum penalty applies to a person who, without reasonable excuse, disturbs another by wilfully pulling or ringing the doorbell of a house or by knocking at the door of a house [Section 50, Summary Offences Act 1953 (SA)].

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