This website is for use by legal professionals (lawyers and law practices) only. If the information is used incorrectly, you could risk losing money or your legal rights. If you are a member of the public looking for free advice about your legal problems please visit, or contact our Legal Help advice line on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. 

If you decide to use or rely on the information or make decisions based on the information in this website (which VLA does not recommend) VLA is not liable to you or any third party in any way for any loss, damage, costs or expenses you or they may suffer or incur as a result.

What are public behaviour offences?

Information about the kinds of offences that are included in the definition of public behaviour offences.

There are a raft of offences listed under the Summary Offences Act 1966 that prohibit behaviour in public (or within the view or hearing of the public) that is thought to be generally unacceptable because it disturbs others. These behaviours include:

  • using indecent threatening or obscene language
  • displaying or performing Nazi symbols and gestures
  • behaving in a way that is likely to intimidate or offend others.

Possible penalties

Most of these offences can be dealt with by issuing an infringement notice. Those that go to court are usually because the person has also been charged with other more serious offences.

If the matter does go to court, it is up to the magistrate whether to give the person a conviction for the offence. A conviction stays on a person's criminal record and may affect the kinds of employment or successful visa applications for travelling to some countries.

See Recording a conviction and Information release policy (police checks)—What information is released?


A diversion may be possible if the person has not offended before.

See What is diversion?

Does the person have to go to court?

Whether a person is obliged to turn up at court will be stated on the summons document. This document has 2 boxes, one of these will be ticked:

  • you must go to court
  • you should go to court.

As distressing as the thought of going to court may be, it may give the accused person a chance to tell their side of the story.

See Does the accused have to go to court?

More information


Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)

  • s. 17—obscene, indecent threatening language and behaviour etc.
  • s. 17A—disorderly conduct
  • s. 41 - Displaying or performing Nazi symbols and gestures

See Summary Offences Act 1966 (Vic)(opens in a new window)