A drug charge in Queensland is dealt with very seriously in the courts. There are a wide variety of drug offences ranging from simple possession to more serious charges such as producing dangerous drugs and trafficking. The seriousness of a drug charge depends on the drug involved, the amount of the drug and whether a person was merely possessing drugs or had an intention of selling those drugs.
The government has separated drugs into 2 different classifications being schedule 1 drugs and schedule 2 drugs. Schedule 1 drugs are considered the most serious category of drugs.
What are schedule 1 and schedule 2 drugs?
Schedule 1 drugs are considered to be the most dangerous drugs; the penalties in relation to them are more severe. A few examples for the schedule 1 drugs are cocaine, heroin, LSD, amphetamines and speed.
Drugs specified in Schedule 2 are considered to be comparatively less dangerous than those which mentioned in Schedule 1, although both these categories are referred to as “dangerous drugs”. Drugs which fall within the second category include Cannabis, Morphine, prescription drugs where a person does not hold a prescription and synthetic drugs.
What type of drug charges are there?
Generally the types of drug charges can be summarised as;
You can also be charged with driving under the influence of an intoxicating substance (drug) if you have been charged with drug driving then see our dedicated drug driving website.
Possessing a Dangerous Drug
It is an offence in Queensland to possess certain drugs which are considered to be dangerous drugs. This offence is the most common drug offence heard in the Queensland Courts. The law stipulates that a person who unlawfully possesses a dangerous drug is guilty of a crime. The prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt, that
- the thing in question was a dangerous drug
- the person had it in his/her possession.
It is not necessary to particularize the dangerous drug which the person is alleged to have possessed. It is sufficient if the court is satisfied that the drug was a dangerous drug, even though the prosecution was unable to give a satisfactory account as to the identity of the drug to the court.
The prosecution has to prove that the drug was in the possession of the defendant at the material time. In law, the idea of possession is quite different from the idea of ownership. Possession is the physical control or the custody of the thing concerned, and therefore it would be sufficient if the prosecution was able to prove that the alleged person had the physical control of or the dominion over the drug concerned, at the material time. It would not be relevant whether the alleged person was the real owner, or whether they had the intention of consuming it. The following are some of the defences available to a person charged with a possessing a dangerous drug;
- If the defendant can prove that he or she was not aware, reasonably and honestly did not believe or had no knowledge or reason to suspect that the drug in question was in his possession.
- That the defendant was under duress at the material time.
The penalty for the possession of dangerous drugs depends on the type and the quantity of the drug and certain other considerations such as whether the defendant is drug dependent. The maximum sentence is 25 years imprisonments
The Magistrates Court can only deal with certain possession charges where the prosecution is not alleging any commercial intent with the possession and the amount of the drug is less than the limits in schedule 4 of the Act. Dangerous drug cases are dealt with in the District or Supreme Court where the amount of drugs exceeds the limit of the Magistrates Court.
In most cases of simple possession of a small amount of drugs a first time offender can expect to receive a fine or drug diversion. If a fine is imposed the court must decide whether to impose a conviction or not. If drug diversion is imposed no conviction will be recorded.
Supplying dangerous drugs
A person who unlawfully supplies a dangerous drug to another, whether or not such other person is in Queensland, commits the offence “supplying dangerous drugs.” The offense can be committed either in its simple form or the aggravated form. Aggravated form attracts harsher penalties. The offence is “aggravated” when the person who receives the drug is a minor or an intellectually impaired person. Also, it takes the aggravated form if it is supplied to the other person within an education institution or a correctional facility or if the receiver is not aware of the fact that he/she is being supplied with the drug. The to provide a supplying drugs charge the prosecution has to establish that;
- The thing was one specified as a dangerous drug by the Drug Misuse Act 1986,
- The drug in question was unlawfully supplied, and
- The alleged person was actually the supplier.
The word “supply” is broadly defined and means;
- to give, distribute, sell, administer, transport or supply
- any offer to do any of those acts and
- doing or offering to do any act preparatory to, in furtherance of or for the purpose of any those acts.
“Unlawfully” means without authorisation, justification or excuse by law. Penalty for the offence of supplying dangerous drugs depends on two factors.
- The schedule which specifies the drug is question.
- Whether the supply of the drug leads to an aggravated offence in the circumstances.
The maximum penalty for the aggravated supply of a drug specified in Schedule 1 is 25 years imprisonment whereas the penalty for the simple form is 20 years. As for the drugs specified in Schedule 2, 20 years imprisonment is for the aggravated supply, and 15 years imprisonment for simple form of the offence.
The charge will in most cases be dealt with in the District court for the supply of a schedule 1 drug or the Magistrates court for the supply of a schedule 2 drug.
Producing dangerous drugs
According to Section 8 of the Drugs Misuse Act, a person who unlawfully produces a dangerous drug is guilty of a crime. Again it is the duty of the prosecution to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged person actually produced the drug in an unlawful manner and that the drug is one specified in Schedule 1 or 2 of the Drugs Misuse regulations 1987. However, the sentence the convicted person will receive depends on several factors.
- The type of the drug as specified by Schedule 1 and 2,
- The quantity of the drug, and
- The purpose of producing the drugs.
The maximum penalty is 25 years imprisonment. However, the court usually considers all the other relevant factors when sentencing the person convicted of the offence and therefore the sentence can be reduced to in most circumstances.
These types of offences can range from growing a small amount of cannabis to producing schedule 1 drugs in a drug lab.
Trafficking Dangerous Drugs
This is the most serious of all the drug charges. It involves supplying drugs as part of a commercial operation. In most cases the police will have attempted to intercepted phone calls and texts to provide the commercial intent.
The charge will start off in the Magistrates Court but will be transferred or committed to the Supreme Court to be resolved.
If you are charged with a drug charge and you are pleading guilty you will generally appear before a Magistrate to be sentenced unless the quantity of the drug exceeds the Magistrates Court limit. In Queensland over 90% of matters are dealt with in the Magistrates Courts. A Magistrate when sentencing you for this offence will take into account the facts of the case, any previous criminal history and your personal circumstances. The best way to ensure a successful outcome is to make sure your circumstances and the facts of the case are put in a clear and concise way before the Magistrate.
If you are seeking for no conviction to be recorded it is important that the Magistrate understands how having a criminal record might affect you in the future. The recording of a conviction for a drug charge will almost certainly reduce your ability to travel outside of Australia especially to places such as the USA. The recording of a conviction may also affect your ability to obtain employment.
Pleading Not Guilty
You can enter a plea of not guilty to a drug charge and elect to take the matter to a trial. If the matter is dealt with in the Magistrates Court then it heard before a Magistrate, if the matter is in the District or Supreme Court then your matter will be decided by a jury. If you plead not guilty, a brief of evidence will be served upon your lawyers. The brief of evidence contains all the evidence against you usually consisting of statements by witnesses and any forensic evidence including analysis of the type and amount of drugs alleged to have been involved. At the trial witnesses, police and any experts attend Court to give evidence orally. The witnesses are then made available for cross-examination by your lawyers. You have the right to give evidence at your trial or elect not to give evidence at all.
What we have achieved for clients
Case study 1 - Client charged with supplying schedule 1 dangerous drug at a music festival. Client was young and had no previous criminal offending. As it was a schedule 1 drug the charge had to be heard in the District Court. We were able to convince the court to impose probation and community service and not to record a conviction meaning the client could travel to the USA as planned.
Case study 2 - Client charged possession of schedule 2 drugs. Court agreed to impose drug diversion meaning client had to attend one session on the dangers of drugs and no conviction was recorded.
Case study 3 – Client charged with possession of over 400g of cannabis. Court agreed to impose a fine only and no conviction.
Case study 4 – Client charged with producing a schedule 1 drug, we were able to have the Police drop the charges on the basis they could not prove our client was in fact the one producing the drugs
Are there any defences to a drug charge?
Some possible defences might include;
- Not having control of the drug
- That for a possession charge the drug was not a dangerous drug
- That the person had a prescription for the drug
There are mnay more potential defences to a drug charge and you will require legal advice to understand them all.
Do I need a lawyer?
Do not attempt to represent yourself in the court on a drug charge. For minor charges if the court records a conviction against you it may affect your ability to travel internationally and to gain employment. For more serious charges especially those involving schedule 1 drugs then a prison could be imposed.
Engaging Clarity Law to act for you
Engaging us gives you the best chance at obtaining the lowest penalty or avoiding a jail sentence if the offence is serious or this is not your first offence. We are one of the leading criminal law firms in South East Queensland. We appear every week in the courts with people charged with drug offences, it is this experience that allows us to get the best result for clients. Other law firms simply don’t have the experience that we do and don’t know the judges like we do. Just some of the benefits of us acting for you include;
- we know the judges and what they want to hear to give you the best outcome
- we have good relationships with the Police prosecutors and the DPP
- we are there to help you through the process and make everything as stress free as possible, in most cases you will not have to say anything in court
- engaging us shows the court you are taking your charges seriously
- your matter will be heard early, often first, you do not have to wait for 20-30 other matters to be heard before you
- you will be fully informed of what is to happen in court and what this means for you after court
- unlike the police or the Judge, we are there to look after you, your privacy and your interests
What courts do you appear in?
We appear in every court in South East Queensland. Just some of the courts we appear in for drug offences are;
1. Beenleigh Magistrates Court
2. Brisbane Magistrates Court
3. Caloundra Magistrates Court
4. Caboolture Magistrates Court
5. Gympie Magistrates Court
6. Holland park Magistrates Court
7. Ipswich Magistrates Court
8. Maroochydore Magistrates Court
9. Noosa Magistrates Court
10. Pine Rivers Magistrates Court
11. Southport Magistrates Court
12. Toowoomba Magistrates Court
13. Wynnum Magistrates Court
For a full list of Courts we appear in click here.
Will I need to come in to the office to see you?
We have offices in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coasts but in most cases we can handle everything by email and the phone without you ever having to come into our office. We are also open outside normal business hours for your convenience.
What do you charge?
We charge a flat upfront fee for our services that means no hidden charges or unexpected bills. We don't charge any travelling fees either; if you are in Maroochydore or Southport you will pay the same price as if you are Brisbane.
We are also upfront with our fees, if you look at other law firms few, if any, clearly list how much they are going to charge you. Clarity Law on the other hand are happy to list our prices as we are sure no other South East Queensland law firm can match our prices and experience. Our prices for a guilty plea include;
- full preparation for court including checking for defences and devising strategy to minimise penalty
- negotiations with the police prosecution unit including obtaining criminal history and charge documents
- drafting submissions for the court
- all telephone calls, faxes emails and meetings with you
- detailed information to you on the likely penalty and information on what will happen at court and afterwards
- appearing in the court with you to conduct your guilty plea
To see what we will for a guilty plea on a drug charge click here. For more serious drug charges and those that cannot be determined in the Magistrates Court or where you are pleading not guilty then contact us and we will provide a fixed price quote.
How do I get more information or engage you to act for me?
If you want to engage us or just need further information or advice then you can either;
- Use our contact form and we will contact you by email or phone at a time that suits you
- Call us on 1300 952 255 seven days a week, 7am to 8pm