With unemployment rates at a high in New South Wales from the effect of Covid-19, a lot of people are struggling to make ends meet. Statistics from Afterpay and Zippay have indicated that people who previously spent money on luxury items were now using the buy now pay later services to buy essential items. Further, 70% of users admitted to feeling financially stressed about making repayments.

While the government has implemented support packages, the money can only go so far. It is fair to say that once you have paid your living expenses, you really do not have much change to spare. The thought of having to fill your car up with fuel as your tank runs low may make you feel overwhelmed. With what seems like so much money going out and so little coming in, some people may see fueling their car without paying as the only option when your fuel light comes on and your bank account is empty.

However, please do not do this. In any event you are unable to pay for fuel, we advise that you go inside the petrol station and speak to the operator. The operator will most likely ask you to record your details, provide your licence and discuss a date for payment. Being open, honest and up front with the operator is the best way to handle the situation. This way, when questioned by management, the operator will be able to explain the reason why you did not pay for fuel and the alternative arrangement.

If you do not speak to the operator, it is highly probable that you will be contacted by police and you may be charged. Once charged, rectifying the situation becomes a lot more complex, time consuming and costly.

If you are charged with an offence, it means that the court has been notified of your wrongdoing and you will be given a court date. If you receive a court attendance notice (CAN), it is highly advised that you seek the assistance of one of our Specialist Criminal Lawyers to defend your interests.


It is a crime pursuant to section 192E (a) of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) (“Act” here thereafter) for a person to obtain a financial advantage by deception. In the context of not paying for fuel, this provision reads: you received free fuel by knowingly driving off without paying.

For the police to charge you with this offence, they only need to prove that you put fuel in your car and that payment was not made. Most petrol stations today have high quality CCTV cameras installed. As a result, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to avoid being captured on footage whilst you are in the proximity of a petrol pump filling your car with fuel.

If the police can establish from CCTV footage that you did in fact, drive off without paying for fuel, you will be charged. The maximum penalty for the offence of obtaining a financial advantage by deception is 10 years imprisonment.


In terms of driving away without paying for fuel, the defence of necessity may be raised in extreme circumstances. The defence of necessity operates in situations where a person was induced to break the law to avoid even more dire consequences. In the case R v Loughnan [1981] VR 443 at [448] the court held that there are three elements that need to be established for the defence of necessity to apply, these are as follows:

1. the criminal act must have been done in order to avoid certain consequences which would have inflicted irreparable evil upon the accused or upon others whom he or she was bound to protect;

2. the accused must honestly have believed on reasonable grounds that he or she was placed in a situation of imminent peril; and

3. the acts done to avoid the imminent peril must not be out of proportion to the peril to be avoided.

In applying the principal from Loughnan, the defence of necessity is usually only applied in life or death situations.  The defence of necessity was not intended to be readily used by people to justify why they broke the law. It is only applicable in circumstances where a person had no other choice.

An example of a situation where necessity may be raised in the context of unpaid fuel is where your petrol light came on, you had no money in your account and the passenger in your vehicle needed urgent medical assistance.


National Criminal Lawyers® offers the following options for those who have been charged with obtain a benefit by deception:

1. We will negotiate with prosecutors (police or DPP) (a term referred to as “plea negotiations”);

2. National Criminal Lawyers® will Plead Not Guilty and go to hearing/trial;

3. Plead guilty to the elements of the charge and then dispute the facts (at a special “disputed facts” hearing); and/or

4. Plead guilty with full acceptance of the facts as set out by the police and make strong submissions on your behalf seeking a non-conviction by the Court.


The team at National Criminal Lawyers® strive to educate our readers on the law and their rights. If you have any specific topics you would like us to discuss in the future, we encourage you to let us know.   

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