What is a drug offence
There are many offences which relate to drugs and these can be found in the Drugs Misuse Act. On the lower end of the scale, a person can be convicted of possessing a small amount of cannabis for their own use. On the more serious end of the scale, a person can be convicted for trying to smuggle hundreds of kilograms of heroin into Australia. For simplicity, the various drug offences can be grouped into the following categories:
- Possessing a dangerous drug;
- Producing a dangerous drug;
- Trafficking in a dangerous drug; or
- Supplying a dangerous drug.
There are also other related drug offences such as possessing drug-related equipment or permitting a place to be used for a drug offence. The common factor is that all of these offences involved drugs, whether directly or indirectly.
Drug offences are generally heard in the Magistrates Court, District Court or the Supreme Court, depending on the specific offence.
Possessing a Dangerous Drug
It is an offence to possess a ‘dangerous drug’ in Queensland and anyone who is found in unlawful possession of a dangerous drug is guilty of a crime. A ‘dangerous drug’ includes the most common forms of drugs such as cannabis and heroin but also includes a wider range of substances such as anything with a similar chemical structure to the chemical structure of a classified dangerous drug.
The term ‘possess’ has a broad meaning under the law. It does not just mean that you were physically holding a drug or that it was in one of your bags, for example. The charge of possessing dangerous drugs can include situations where drugs are found in your home even if the drugs are not yours. In these situations, the law says that you are assumed to be in possession of the drugs because they were found in a place which you had control over. It is then your responsibility to produce evidence or other information which shows that you did not know that the drugs were present and that you had no reason to suspect that they were there.
Another important consideration for the court is whether you were in possession of a dangerous drug for your own use or whether you in fact possessed the drugs for commercial reasons – that you were intending to sell or otherwise supply the drugs to another person. This can not only impact the sentence that might be imposed but also the court that will ultimately hear the case.
If you have been charged with possessing a dangerous drug, you need to contact Harper Finch Lawyers to obtain expert legal advice to ensure that your rights are protected and that you are properly represented from start to finish.
Producing a Dangerous Drug
A person will be charged with a criminal offence if they produce a dangerous drug. Many people assume that producing a dangerous drug involves the actual production of the drug itself, such as growing a cannabis plant. The law however provides a much wider definition of the term ‘produce’. Here, produce means:
prepare, manufacture, cultivate, package or produce;
offering to do any act specified in paragraph (1);
doing or offering to do any act preparatory to, in furtherance of, or for the purpose of, any act specified in paragraph (1).
This means that you can be charged with producing a dangerous drug even if you simply packaged a larger quantity of drug into separate packages. In our experience, this broad definition can cause many problems for our clients. For example, there are situations where a person may have bought a bag of cannabis for their own personal use but then vacuum-packed the cannabis into smaller packages to ensure that the drug does not go mouldy. In this case, our argument is that the person should only be charged with possessing the drug and not producing it and we have successfully raised this argument in the past.
There a number of different factors which will impact a possible sentence for an offence of producing a dangerous drug, such as the size and sophistication of a drug production project and whether the production was for commercial gain or personal use. There are also factors which are relevant to the defendant only, such as their age and cooperation.
If you have been charged with producing a dangerous drug, contact us now to discuss your options.
Trafficking in a Dangerous Drug
Trafficking in dangerous drugs is considered to be one of the most serious drug offences as it generally involves the ongoing supply of drugs for commercial purposes. It therefore applies to people who carry on a business of selling drugs to others. It can be distinguished from the offence of supplying dangerous drugs as supplying a drug does not need to involve any ongoing transactions and also does not need to involve any commercial gain for the person supplying the drugs.
Most drug offences are dealt with in either the Magistrates Court or the District Court however trafficking offences are considered so serious that they are dealt with in the Supreme Court. Given the seriousness of this offence, you should contact us as soon as possible if you have been charged with trafficking a dangerous drug.
Supplying a Dangerous Drug
The offence of supplying a dangerous drug does not just involve the selling of drugs from one person to another. It can, for example, include situations where a person gives an ecstasy tablet to a friend at a partner for free or a person shares a cannabis joint at a party. Both of these examples show that the supply of a dangerous drug does not need to involve any payment for the drugs.
In a strange twist of the law, a person can also be charged with supply a dangerous drug to themselves. If a person buys drugs from another person, the buyer was involved in the supply of drugs by the seller and can therefore be charged due to his or her involvement in the supplying of the drugs. In theory, this means that almost anyone who is in possession of drugs could also be charged with supplying the drug (assuming they didn’t grow the drugs themselves). Fortunately our experience is that most people are only charged with actually possessing the drugs.
Supplying dangerous drugs is regarded by the Queensland courts as a very serious offence and sentences can easily include periods of actual imprisonment. As Brisbane’s drug law experts, Harper Finch Lawyers can represent you from start to finish for any drug offence so contact us now.
Possessing Utensils or Pipes
If you are found with a bong or other smoking utensil such as a pipe, you will be charged with possessing a utensil or pipe. This includes homemade bongs or any other object ‘for use in connection with the administration, consumption or smoking of a dangerous drug’.
This is a very common offence as many people who are found to be in possession of dangerous drugs are often also in possession of something used to take the drug.
Harper Finch Lawyers are passionate about helping people who have been charged with drug offences as it is our mission to ensure you get the right outcome.
Contact us now for expert advice.
Possessing Suspected Property
In Queensland, a person can be charged with possessing suspected property if they are found in possession of any property (other than a dangerous drug, hypodermic syringe or needle) reasonably suspected of having a connection with the commission of a drug offence. This could include for example being in possession of digital scales used for weighing drugs or cash that is the proceeds of a drug offence.
If a person has been charged with possessing suspected property but they deny that the property had any connection to a drug offence, it is their responsibility to provide to the court a satisfactory account showing how they lawfully came into possession of the property.
If you are going to court, make sure you have expert representation by your side. Contact Harper Finch Lawyers now and speak with an experienced drug offence lawyer.
What are the penalties
There are many different penalties that can apply due to the wide range of possible offences.
For minor offences such as possession of recreational drugs for personal use, the penalty may be nothing more than a fine. There are also court diversion programs available in certain circumstances which allow a person to avoid a conviction for some of the minor drug offences.
Some repeat or ongoing drug users may benefit from a period of probation which provides them with opportunities to receive counselling and other support. The courts however cannot order a person to attend probation and they are therefore voluntary. Probation orders are most common for younger offenders as they have the best chance of rehabilitation.
For more serious offences the penalty can extend to jail terms of up to 25 years.
The courts can also order that a criminal conviction should be recorded on a person’s criminal history. This can have serious consequences on a person’s ability to gain employment and to travel and therefore it is always better to avoid a conviction being recorded, if possible.
How we can help you
The courts treat drug offences very seriously and impose harsh penalties as a lesson to others. For this reason, you need to make sure that if you are convicted of a drug offence, you receive an appropriate penalty. We can help you obtain the best outcome possible in the circumstances as well as helping you make an application for a court diversion program, if appropriate.