Street brawls, especially fights that break out between partygoers outside nightclubs or between people who are drunk in public places, can result in a person being charged with common assault.

The offence of assault requires force to have been used either directly (e.g. by punching or pushing with a hand) or indirectly (e.g. by throwing a drink) against a person. An assault can also be committed by threats and gestures.

Maximum penalty: 3 years jail (if you are found guilty of being drunk and in a public place when you commit this offence, you will also normally have to do community services as part of the penalty). Where the assault is very serious (e.g. assault on someone over 60 years or on a disabled person), the penalty can increase to 7 years, but if in company or carried out with a weapon, 10 years jail.

Assaulting or obstructing a police officer is a separate offence and is treated very seriously by the courts. Obstructing a police officer includes resisting arrest.

Maximum penalty: 40 penalty units or 6 months jail if charged under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act; or 60 penalty units or 12 months jail if the offence occurs in or near licensed premises such as a pub;

if charged under the Criminal Code with serious assault of a police officer, 7 years jail, and up to 14 years if the offence involves spitting on or biting a police officer.