Do Police Cautions Show Up on My Police Check?

Do Police Cautions Show Up on My Police Check?

The Police Check Australia is a record showing an applicant’s history with the police. You can expect any convictions or pending charges you have to appear on the check.

When a person breaks the law, police can take action in several ways. Different penalties are imposed based on what the offence is and the severity of the offence. Not all crimes result in convictions by the court.

A ‘lesser’ punishment for minor crimes is a police caution. Police issue cautions in the hope of deterring people from reoffending. It ultimately serves as a warning against bad behaviour, but does it appear in a police check?

What is a Police Caution?

A police caution is a kind of penalty issued to offenders of low-level crimes. It is a lighter form of punishment, intended to avoid strict actions. It is greater however, than the receival of tickets and fines.

The offender must agree to be cautioned to avoid severe, legal consequences. It acts as an alternative to going to court for sentencing.

A caution is not simply a face-to-face warning, but a recorded event. It is stored in your history but is not included in your criminal record. It may, however, be used at a later date to support other court proceedings. It can help to support negative claims about an individual’s character.

In Australia, cautions can be considered a diversion program. This is where matters are handled outside of the judicial system.

Do Police Cautions Show Up on a Police Check?

Unlike convictions and more serious offences, police cautions do not show up when you get a criminal record check. While it may appear that a caution is not much of an issue, it’s important to remember that a caution still counts as a serious warning from the police.

Just because cautions are not kept in your criminal record, does not mean that they don’t exist. The police officer will record the caution, and it will be saved to your court alternatives history.

The nationally coordinated criminal history check only includes disclosable court outcomes. As the police caution is not a court matter, it is not considered releasable.

What Does a Police Check Show?

The national police check carried out in Australia shows the outcomes of offences which reached court action. This means criminal convictions and pending matters against the applicant. On most occasions, the police check doesn’t include;

  • Findings of non-guilt
  • Dropped, dismissed or incomplete charges
  • Diversionary programs
  • Intervention orders
  • Traffic infringements without conviction
  • Overseas convictions
  • Penalties received from non-police authorities or other professional bodies
  • Spent offences unless a state exclusion applies

Instead, you will most definitely find;

  • Sexual offences
  • Traffic convictions
  • All other convictions
  • Offences against corporate bodies
  • Sentences
  • Offences pending court

What Offences Receive a Police Caution?

A police caution may be issued when a person engages in behaviour such as;

  • Traffic violations
  • Underage drinking
  • Drug use
  • Minor assaults
  • Affray
  • Any offence that is not considered eligible for further legal action

How Do the Police Determine When to Give a Police Caution?

A caution is granted as an alternative penalty. They are not dished out without a good deal of thought from police officers dealing with the offender.

Some factors are taken into account to determine if the individual requires more serious police action or if a caution will be more beneficial.

The police will think about;

  • Whether the individual has a criminal record, and what offences it contains
  • The victim. Their view will be taken into account. Do they seek a harsher punishment?
  • The opinion of the police. Is a caution enough?
  • The behaviour of the offender in the aftermath. Are they sorry for their actions?
  • The nature of the offence
  • The level of seriousness

Who Can Receive a Police Caution?

A police caution can be issued to any person caught committing a minor crime, even juveniles. Age limits may be present in some states and territories.

The caution is a common way to deal with minors. If a juvenile commits an offence, the caution spares them from court intervention. It means they will not be charged or be given a criminal record based on offences on a smaller scale. Sometimes, an informal caution is issued if the offence is minor enough.

In some cases, a caution is still issued even if the crime was more severe. Police must determine if the youth deserves a harsher sentencing for their actions.

For minors, a parent or guardian must be present during the caution. This ensures the offender understands what is happening, the severity of the offence, and the consequences of their actions.

Once a police caution is issued, no further action can be taken against the offender for that particular offence. There are no more penalties, but the individual may need to comply with some conditions.

A caution often comes with conditions that must be met by the offender, in a bid to resolve the damages caused. For instance, the offender may have to;

  • Formally agree to good behaviour
  • Apologise to the victim, for instance with a written apology or formal statement
  • Agree to certain orders, such as community service
  • Compensate/reimburse the victim for damages or loss

The cautioning option is not guaranteed for all offences of a lesser degree. There are certain offences which can never be granted a police caution, regardless of how minor the offence was. A caution is only eligible under the right conditions.

In other cases, a person with a particular past conviction may be excluded from being granted a caution.

Do Authorities Decide Which Information Shows on a Police Check?

Yes, during a criminal background check, police authorities look closely at the information found on the national database. From there, the information is matched to the purpose of the check. So, if you apply for an employment check, authorities will consider the role and whether the police history is relevant or mandatory to disclose.

Sexually-related crimes will always be disclosed, and other offences against vulnerable people if the employment relates to working with these groups. Crimes against children will always be disclosed for child-related employment, like working in schools or child accommodation services.

A police check online is handled by accredited bodies of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. But when it comes to interpreting the results of a national police check, it is out of their hands. Accredited bodies simply work as a means of submitting police check applications on behalf of applicant’s.

Do Spent Convictions Show Up on a Police Check?

Spent convictions are not released as part of your police check unless stipulated by state regulations. When a conviction becomes spent, it is automatically removed from your criminal record (although it is never fully removed from existence).

A spent conviction occurs when a conviction has been on record for ten years, or five years if sentenced in a youth court. The offender has not been involved in any more illegal activity in this time, and the conviction matches all other conditions. The scheme is only applicable to offences of a certain degree. Major crimes will never be spent.

Cautions never become spent, as they are not criminal convictions to begin with. If you have received a caution at some point in your life, you do not need to worry about whether or not it will be eligible under the spent convictions scheme.

What if a Person Reoffends?

The possibility of a police caution is only offered under certain circumstances. Police officers will assess the incident on a case-by-case basis, considering the circumstances before deciding to issue cautioning.

The whole idea behind the caution is to give the offender a chance to avoid court sentencing. The hope is that they do not act criminally in future following this police intervention.

If a person continuously repeats offences that warrant a caution, there is only a certain number of cautions they are able to receive. The maximum limit is typically three cautions. Further punishable offences will be met with court action.

If you are lucky enough to get a caution as opposed to more serious legal action, you should take this as an opportunity to remove yourself from all criminal activity. The caution offers you a chance to continue life as normal. You just need to remain well-behaved and on the right side of the law.

What is the Impact of a Police Caution?

A caution from the authorities is probably the best result you could hope for if you’ve committed a low-level offence. You don’t have to attend court, have a criminal record created or serve a prison term. You are also not obligated to share the fact that you have had a police caution to requesting parties, such as employers.

However, there may be some prospects that require full disclosure of all police history, including cautions. As well as this, police might want to access court alternative records if the offender finds themselves in further breach of laws. The record of the caution can help to build a picture of the person’s character.

Overall, the police caution does not come with an official penalty, other than abiding to the conditions attached. It is important to note that even in these circumstances, a caution is not ideal. You should always avoid illegal behaviour and live your life without breaching the law.

Youth Criminal Records

A formal police caution for a young offender is kept in the criminal database, remaining on file for years to come. While a caution can be used against an offender at a later date, a juvenile caution cannot be used in adult courts once the offender reaches the legal adult age (18 years).

Will a Police Caution Affect Job Opportunities?

Police cautions do not tend to come with dire consequences, although you should always refrain from getting in trouble with the police.

If you complete a job application and the employer asks you for a criminal history check, you can consent with the knowledge that any police cautions will not be disclosed. Unless you have other convictions on your record, a national police check will reveal a ‘no disclosable court outcomes’ result. It means you have a clean record, or the information found is not worth sharing.

With police cautions, you don’t have to disclose them if asked by another party. They are  a form of police action, but not a criminal conviction. For this reason, presenting a national police check to employers should not affect your chances of being hired.


In the grand scheme of things, a police caution is not going to have an extreme impact on your prospects. A caution can be thought of almost as a lucky escape. When granted, you avoid court sentencing and a harsh punishment.

But remember, it is an event recorded by authorities and could be used against you in future court proceedings for other offences, where applicable. In any event, it is always best to remain a law-abiding citizen.