In Victoria it is against the law to use, possess, cultivate or traffic a drug of dependence.
The penalties for using and possessing small quantities of illegal drugs are treated less seriously than for trafficking and cultivating drugs. Importing or exporting drugs are offenses under Commonwealth law and are also serious.
The differences in penalties for use, possession, cultivating, manufacturing, trafficking and importing drugs is significant.
Possession remains the most common drug offense and depending on the amount you possess and the reason you possess a substance, being in possession of a drug can actually result in you being charged with a more serious offense, such as trafficking.
What is possession of a drug of dependence?
Possession may be physically carrying illegal drugs on your body, having them at your house, a property you occupy, in a car you own, or even a car you are simply driving. Essentially, if police find illegal drugs on or near you or in a property you have control over, they are likely to charge you with drug possession.
If you are caught with a small quantity of illegal drugs and it’s your first offense, you may get a warning (caution). If, however, you are charged, you may get a diversion, which is an opportunity for a first-time offender to avoid a criminal record). If you do not get a diversion and are found or plead guilty in open Court you will have a criminal record, even if you receive a modest penalty such as a fine or a good behavior bound.
How serious is drug possession?
A drug possession charge is determined by the quantity of illegal drugs that are found on you or at your property.
For example, with regard to cannabis:
• A small quantity is up to 50 grams
• A traffickable quantity is 250 grams or over, or 10 or more cannabis plants
• A commercial quantity is 25 kilograms or over, or 100 or more cannabis plants
• A large commercial quantity is 250 kilograms or more, or 1000 or more cannabis plants
The penalties vary dramatically between possession of a small quantity of drugs and the other quantities identified above. As stated above, if found in possession of a small number of drugs you remain eligible for a diversion and could receive a fine or good behavior bond. However, if you are found in possession of a large quantity of drugs you are likely to be charged with trafficking a drug of dependence and offense for which offenders often receive terms of imprisonment. If the amount you are in possession of exceeds a commercial or large commercial quantity you will be charged with trafficking in a commercial or large commercial quantity and you can expect to go to jail.
What’s the difference between a major and minor drug offense?
Where the amount is small, drug possession and use are generally considered to be minor offenses. However, when in possession of larger quantities, you are more likely to be charged with trafficking and the penalties are likely to be more severe.
Trafficking a drug of dependence is a serious offense.
You can be charged with trafficking if you are:
• in possession of a large quantity of drugs
• in possession of drugs divided into a number of smaller bags
• manufacturing a drug(s)
• selling a drug(s)
• exchanging drugs
• have receiving money from a friend to buy drugs for them
Whether you have committed a minor offense or a more serious offense it’s vital to understand the process if you’re charged with a drug offense. For some people this may be the difference between a criminal record and avoiding one. For others it may well be the difference between going to jail and avoiding jail time.
What are my rights?
In the event the police arrest you in relation to allegations of drug possession or drug trafficking, they will interview you, and that interview will be recorded. Always remember you have the right to stay silent.
The most important thing to do when charged with a drug offense is to find expert legal representation. Without a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer on your side, you are up against the power of the state on your own.
When placed under arrest, if you do not get an opportunity to speak to a lawyer first, it is advisable to say nothing other than to give the police your name, address, and date of birth. Relinquishing your right to silence without legal advice can and often does result in giving answers that could incriminate you.
Best Criminal Lawyers in Melbourne
Stary Norton Halphen is one of Melbourne’s most respected, best known, and largest criminal law firms. Their criminal solicitors are experts in all aspects of criminal law and are well equipped to handle the complexities and sensitivities which can arise in a case.
The firm’s criminal lawyers have extensive experience in representing clients for all types of drug matters. They have represented a broad range of clients spanning possession for personal use to the trafficking and manufacturing of drugs, including low-level transactions and the importation and trafficking of large commercial quantities.
As one of Melbourne’s most experienced law firms when it comes to drug crime, the attorneys at Stary Norton Halphen understand the concerns and common questions clients may have and are committed to ensuring you are vigorously and fairly defended and that you understand and are engaged in your defense and the legal process.