Drug Possession Lawyers in Melbourne - Drug Trafficking & Offence Charges
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What are drug offences?
The Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 outlines two types of drugs:
- Drugs of dependence, which can only be possessed with a valid prescription
- Illegal drugs such as cannabis, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and synthetic drugs
Possessing an illicit substance or using a drug of dependence without a prescription (or with a forged/invalid prescription) is considered a crime under Victorian law. It is also illegal to cultivate and traffic illicit drugs.
What will I be charged with?
Drug-related charges are usually dependent on the quantity of drugs. If you are found with a small quantity for personal use, you will likely only be charged with possession and drug use. If you possess a large commercial quantity, you may be charged with drug cultivation and manufacturing or trafficking. The limits for commonly prosecuted drugs are listed below.
- Cannabis – 25g or 10 plants
- Cocaine – 3g
- Heroin – 3g
- Speed – 3g
- Methamphetamine – 3g
- MDMA – 3g
- Cannabis – 25kg or 100 plants
- Cocaine – 100g pure, 500g mixed
- Heroin – 250g pure, 500g mixed
- Speed – 100g pure, 500g mixed
- Methamphetamine – 50g pure, 250g mixed
- MDMA – 100g pure, 500g mixed
Large commercial quantity
- Cannabis – 250kg or 1000 plants
- Cocaine – 750g pure, 1kg mixed
- Heroin – 750g pure, 1kg mixed
- Speed – 750g pure, 1kg mixed
- Methamphetamine – 500g pure, 750g mixed
- MDMA – 750g pure, 1kg mixed
Most drug offences we see happen to be drug possession and drug use, as these are some of the most common offences in criminal law.
Will I go to prison for drug charges?
While jail time is a possible penalty for drug charges, drug possession and use are seen as fairly minor offences. The maximum penalty for drug possession charges is as follows:
- Possession of cannabis (up to 50 grams) – 5 penalty units
- Possession of 50 or more grams of cannabis and other illicit drugs – 30 penalty and/or 1 year imprisonment
In general, with drug matters, the Magistrates Court will explore alternative options to incarceration for first-time and young offenders. If eligible, you may attend the Drug Court in Dandenong and be assigned a two-year court Drug Treatment Order (DTO) to help with addiction.
If you have committed multiple offences or more serious drug crimes like commercial trafficking, you may be given a jail sentence. Regardless of the severity of the drug charge, you will most likely receive a permanent criminal record for drug offending.
Maximum penalties for more severe drug offences as set out by Commonwealth law include:
- Cultivation of narcotic plants for drug trafficking – 15 years imprisonment
- Cultivation of a commercial quantity of narcotic plants – 25 years imprisonment
- Cultivation of large commercial quantities – 5000 penalty units and life imprisonment
- Trafficking non-commercial quantities – 15 years imprisonment
- Trafficking to a child – 20 years imprisonment (25 if near a school)
- Trafficking commercial quantities – 25 years imprisonment (life imprisonment if associated with a criminal organisation)
- Trafficking large commercial quantities – Life imprisonment
- Producing or selling synthetic drugs – A fine of $38,000 or more and/or 2 years imprisonment
Where will my case be heard?
Minor drug charges like possessing or using a prohibited drug are summary offences and are heard in the Magistrates Court or Drug Court. If the maximum sentence is less than 2 years imprisonment, your drug case will likely be held here.
A more serious offence – drug trafficking charges, for example – may be heard in the County or Supreme Courts, though County Court is more common.
Do I have a legal defence?
Your defence will depend on the specifics of the case, your prior criminal history, and the severity of your drug crime. Some common defences our criminal lawyers may explore include:
- Drug addiction
- You were not the owner of the drugs, or other parties were involved
- You or someone you care for is authorised to possess the drug
- The drugs were found illegally
Make sure you speak to a criminal defence lawyer before you consent to a police interview, as this will ensure that you don't say anything detrimental to your case. Getting expert legal advice as soon as possible will help you navigate the criminal justice system and give you a better chance of avoiding criminal charges.
Should I plead guilty?
In certain circumstances, pleading guilty may be the best solution to avoid a costly court battle and help negotiate a lesser sentence. Of course, pleading guilty will result in a criminal conviction and hence a criminal record, which can affect your future. This can be a hard decision to make – one for which you should definitely seek advice.
Our criminal defence lawyers in Melbourne will always put your interests first and ensure you are fully aware of all your options and their consequences.