A conditional release order is previously known as a section 10(1)(b) non-conviction.
A Conditional Release Order is the other most lenient penalty available that a Judge or Magistrate can give for any criminal or traffic offence in NSW. Unlike s10(1)(a), this involves a requirement that you comply with conditions over a certain period of time. Breach of those conditions can have severe consequences.
The benefit of getting a conditional release order is that it can mean that you won’t get a criminal conviction recorded against your name, you won’t be fined, and in the case of a traffic offence, you won’t lose demerit points and you won’t have your driver licence disqualified- even where you plead guilty.
An ‘assessment report’ isn’t required before a Judge or Magistrate imposes this type of penalty.
The Judge or Magistrate can give you any 1 of the following two types of conditional release orders:
- Conditions with no criminal conviction; or
- Conditions with a criminal conviction
The Judge or Magistrate is more likely to give you a non-conviction conditional release order where:
- You are a person of good character. This can be demonstrated to the Judge by handing up compelling good character reference letters. See character reference examples (https://www.criminaldefencelawyers.com.au/criminal-law/good-character-reference-guide/).
- You have no previous criminal conviction.
- You’re young.
- Suffering a mental health condition such as depression can significantly mitigate the sentence, which means- it can result in more leniency.
- Where there are compelling circumstances as an explanation (not a justification) what your offending conduct. i.e. where you were provoked or you did what you did compulsively without having much time to think it through.
- If it was a trivial (less serious) offence.
- Any other matter the court thinks proper to have regard to. This can include the impact of a conviction or licence disqualification on you or other people who depend on you.
It’s worth preparing your case well to maximise your chances of getting an order that avoids a criminal record and/or licence disqualification period.
What are the Conditions of a Conditional Release Order?
If you get a conditional release order (whether it’s with or without a conviction), you’ll also be required to comply with the following ‘standard conditions’:
- You must not commit any offence; and
- You must attend court if the court calls on you to do so at any time during the term of the order.
In some more serious cases, the Judge or Magistrate may impose ‘additional conditions’, including one or more of the following:
- Supervision condition: requiring you to submit to being supervised by a community corrections officer.
- Place restriction: prohibiting you from attending or visiting a specified place or area.
- Non-association condition: a condition prohibiting you from associating with one or more persons.
- Abstention condition: a condition prohibiting you from consuming drugs or alcohol (or both).
- Treatment or rehabilitation: a condition requiring you to partake in a rehab program or other treatment for any identified issues i.e. drugs or alcohol or mental health.
A conditional release order cannot include conditions of home detention, electronic monitoring, curfew, or community service work as part of the order.
How Long Does a Conditional Release Order Last For?
If a Judge or Magistrate gives you any conditional release order, it will also mean that you must comply with the conditions over a period of time- breaching those conditions can result in harsh penalties. The maximum period of time a conditional release order can be in force for is 2 years.
The Magistrate or Judge in court will decide and tell you the period of time you will be required to comply with the order(s) for.
Can a Conditional Release Order Condition be Changed or Revoked?
A Magistrate or Judge can impose ‘additional’ conditions, or change or revoke the additional conditions of the conditional release order at the time of giving the sentence in court.
The community corrections officer or the offender can also later apply to the court to add, vary or revoke the conditions.
The Judge or Magistrate who hears the application for the conditions to be added, varied or revoked can refuse the application if it doesn’t have any merit to it.
Can a Conditional Release Order Condition be Suspended?
A community corrections officer has the discretion to suspend the supervision condition for a period or for an indefinite period of time.
A community corrections officer can also suspend any non-association conditions of the order for a period of time at his/her discretion.
Any suspension made, can be with or without conditions by the community corrections officer.
What happens if I Breach a Conditional Release Order Condition?
If the court so much as suspects that you’ve breached any conditions of a conditional release order, it can require you to attend court.
Failing to attend court after the court has called on you to appear allows the court to issue a warrant for your arrest. This allows police to arrest you and take you to court for the purposes of appearing before a Magistrate or Judge.
Breaching any of the conditions of a conditional release order can result in heavy penalties, including a criminal record.
If the court’s satisfied that you did in fact breach any of the conditions of the order, the court can do any one of the following things:
- No action is taken on the breach. It may do this if the breach is very trivial or where there was a compelling explanation for it; or
- Further conditions can be added, or the current conditions can be changed or revoked; or
- The conditional release order itself can be revoked. This means the court can re punish you for the original offence.
What Happens if a Conditional Release Order Gets Revoked?
If the court revokes your conditional release order as a result of a breach of its conditions, the court can then sentence you again for the original offence.
This will mean that the Magistrate or Judge can impose the same penalty again with more conditions, or it may impose a heavier penalty such as a community corrections order or an intensive correction order or even a full time prison sentence.