Possess Cartridge Ammunition

– section 124(1) of the Firearms Act 1996
AmmunitionUnder the Firearms Act 1996 (‘the Act’) a person must not possess cartridge ammunition unless that person:

  1. Is the holder of a licence under the Act or a permit under section 58A
  2. Is the holder of a licence to keep explosives for sale and to sell explosives
  3. Is not required to have a licence under the Act in order to possess a firearm

Possession of cartridge ammunition without falling within an exemption listed above is in breach of section 124(1) of the Act.

Examples of Possess Cartridge Ammunition
  • You used to go hunting with your friends and still have some cartridge ammunition in your bedroom, despite not having a licence or a permit. The police execute a search warrant on your house and find the cartridge ammunition.
Questions in cases like this
  • Was the cartridge ammunition actually in your ‘possession’?
  • Do you in fact have a permit of licence?
What are some of the possible defences to Possess Cartridge Ammunition?

Criminal defences that are available are honest and reasonable mistake of belief, necessity, sudden or extraordinary emergency and incorrect factual matrix.

The decision on whether to plead guilty or not guilty to this charge can best be made only after a careful study of the strengths of your case. Contact a criminal lawyer to assess the factors in your case.

Maximum penalty and court that deals with this charge

This offence carries a fine of 40 penalty units (around $6500) as the highest possible sentence. As a summary offence, any summons for this charge will primarily be handled by the Magistrates’ Court.

Legislation

The legislation for this offence can be found on section 124(1) of the Firearms Act 1996.

Elements of the offence

The prosecution must prove the following beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. The item in question is cartridge ammunition; and
  2. The accused possessed the cartridge ammunition in question.

Was the item cartridge ammunition?
According to section 3 of the Firearms Act 1996, ‘cartridge ammunition’ means ammunition having a bullet or other projectile and a priming device fixed to or enclosed in a cartridge case which is composed wholly or partly of material other than paper.

Did the accused possess the cartridge ammunition?
Whether or not the accused was in possession of the cartridge ammunition will depend on the circumstances. The prosecution may be able to point to ‘constructive’ possession if the item was found in the accused’s handbag or their bedroom – it does not have to be on the accused’s person.

“Can they prove you actually had possession of the cartridge ammunition?”
Sentencing in the higher courts

Higher CourtThere were a total of 182 charges of Possess Cartridge Ammunition that were heard in Victorian higher courts from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. Most of these charges resulted in fines (71.4%) but there were also other sentences imposed:

  • Community Correction Order – 10.4%
  • Imprisonment – 8.2%
  • Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 8.2%
  • Wholly Suspended Sentence – 1.1%
  • Youth Justice Centre Order – 0.6%

Of those who were sentenced to prison, 73.3% received a term that was less than a year. Of those who were sentenced to a fine, 83.1% were sentenced to an amount that is less than $1,000. This amount was also the most frequently imposed.

The highest fine imposed was however between $2,000 and $5,000 and was applied in 2.3% of the charges that resulted in fines.1

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in the higher courts earlier than that of the Magistrates’ Court, and therefore all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 will not have this available as a sentencing option.2

Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts

In the Magistrates’ Courts, a total of 2,051 cases (2,236 charges) of Possess Cartridge Ammunition were heard from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. Imprisonment (36.5%) was imposed in the majority of these cases but others were also sentenced to the following:

  • Community Correction Order – 26.4%
  • Fine – 22.4%
  • Wholly Suspended Sentence – 6.2%
  • Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 4.7%
  • Partially Suspended Sentence – 2.5%
  • Other – 0.7%
  • Youth Justice Centre Order – 0.6%

The longest prison term imposed was for 36+ months and this was true in 1.5% of the cases that resulted in imprisonment. The term most frequently imposed was between 3 and 6 months and was applied in 26.7% of the cases that led to imprisonment.

In terms of fines, the majority were sentenced to an amount between $1,000 and $2,000 (27.9% for aggregate) as well as less than $500 (13.8% for non-aggregate). The highest amount imposed was $20,000 or more (0.1% for aggregate).3

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in Victoria for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.4

Other important resources
Media information

Call Doogue + George

Case studies related to Possess Cartridge Ammunition

 



[1] SACStat Higher Courts – Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) : s 124(1) – possess cartridge ammunition < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/higher_courts/HC_96_66_124_1.html >
[2] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >
[3] SAC Statistics – Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) : s 124(1) – possess cartridge ammunition < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/96_66_124_1.html >
[4] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >