A Quick Guide to Drug Offences

May 18, 2017

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If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug offence here’s a quick guide to the relevant definitions and penalties you can expect.

Drug offences include a number of categories of varying seriousness, each attracting a different penalty. Categories of major drug offences include:

1. Use
The definitions of “use” includes smoking, inhaling the fumes of, or introducing a drug of dependence into a person’s body.

  • Penalties – range from a fine for cannabis use to a fine or imprisonment for up to 1 year or both for other illegal drugs.
  • First-time cannabis or heroin users in Victoria will normally be formally cautioned rather than charged, at the discretion of police.  You will be referred to compulsory counselling at a drug treatment centre. Failure to attend might result in charges ultimately being laid.

2. Possession
In the eyes of the law, possession of drugs is not necessarily the same as ownership or use. For example, if you are aware of drugs in your house, you can be charged with possession even if the drugs belong to another member of the household.

  • Possession can also include being found with objects used to take drugs (e.g. bong, pipe, syringes) or objects used to produce drugs (e.g. scales, lights, agricultural equipment).
  • The maximum penalty for a charge of possession of any drug where possession of the drug is not related to trafficking is a fine calculated in relation to the amounts possessed or up to one year’s imprisonment, or both.
  • If you are charged with possession of a trafficable quantity of drugs, see trafficking penalties below.

3. Cultivation
This charge covers the growing, preparing, manufacturing, packaging and production of a narcotic plant, usually cannibis. A single one of those acts constitutes the offence: to water (nurture) a plant or to harvest one leaf constitutes an act of cultivation.

  • Penalties – If the court is satisfied that cultivation was not related to trafficking, the penalty for cultivation is a fine or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both.
  • The penalty for cultivation related to trafficking purposes is a maximum of 15 years imprisonment or a fine calculated by reference to the amounts cultivated.
  • The penalty forcultivation of a commercial quantity of a narcotic plant (100 plants or more) is a maximum of 25 years imprisonment and a substantial fine calculated by reference to the amounts cultivated.
  • For a large commercial quantity, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment and a substantial fine calculated in relation to the amounts cultivated.
  • Forfeiture and Restraint of Assets: If you are charged with cultivation (or trafficking) of a commercial or large commercial quantity of drugs, usually your assets will be frozen and seized, and not even available to pay legal costs.  Please contact us to discuss this as we deal in this area.

4. Trafficking
This charge usually involves larger quantities of drugs, multiple acts of “supply” (or giving, distributing, selling, administering or transporting drugs – even giving a friend a pill can constitute supply) for the purpose of commercial gain.  It can include, but not be limited to, the organised business of selling drugs, but it is important to note that buying drugs for a friend, when that friend has given you the money to purchase can also be seen as trafficking, even if you make no profit from the transaction.

  • Penalties – Trafficking is an indictable offence. For trafficking offences of non-commercial quantities the maximum penalty is 15 years imprisonment or a fine calculated in on the basis of the amount trafficked.
  • For trafficking to a person under the age of 18 years of age, the maximum penalty is a term of imprisonment of 20 years or a fine calculated in on the basis of the amount trafficked.
  • The penalties for the trafficking commercial quantities of illegal drugs are very severe: a maximum term of imprisonment of 25 years or a substantial fine, or both.

5. Conspiracy.
The law deems that anyone conspiring with another to commit a drug offence is liable to the same punishment as if they were guilty of the offence they are conspiring to commit.

This means that simply planning to commit a drug offence can carry the same penalties you would receive if you had committed the crime.

If you have been charged with any of the above drug offences it’s vital you get legal advice immediately. Don’t delay. Call Paul Horvath Solicitors now to talk through your options.