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Drug offences

Possessing, selling and producing or importing drugs in Queensland can be a very serious offence carrying heavy penalties and lifelong consequences (including travel bans to many countries in the world).

This part of our website aims to inform you of the most common drug offences in Queensland and under commonwealth law.  If you, or a family member, have been charged with a drug offence you should contact us to discuss the situation and how Townes & Associates can help.

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    Drug offences

    Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld) and Commonwealth Criminal Code

    The law in Queensland separates drugs into two categories namely, ‘schedule 1’ and ‘schedule 2’ substances. Possessing, selling (including trafficking) and producing drugs (called ‘dangerous drugs’ in the legislation) are all separate, serious, offences.

    Schedule 1 drugs in Queensland are, Amphetamine, Cocaine, Heroin, Lysergide (LSD), Methylamphetamine, 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), Paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA), Paramethoxymethamphetamine (PMMA) and Phencyclidine as well as all steroids.

    There are 993 substances listed as schedule 2 drugs in Queensland, most notably Buprenorphine, Cannabis, Codeine and Oxycodone. 

    Depending on the type and quantity of the drug possessed a person will be subject to a proceeding on indictment before either the District or Supreme courts.  The following table outlines the ‘indictable quantity’ of common drugs in Queensland:

    Drug

    Indictable quantity

    Cocaine

    2 grams

    3-4methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)

    2 grams

    Methamphetamine

    2 grams

    Cannabis

    500 grams

    Heroin

    2 grams

    Importing drugs into Australia is an offence under Commonwealth law carrying distinct penalties and a unique sentencing regime (for those who are guilty of federal offences).

    Select an offence type below for more information or, if it all seems a bit overwhelming, give us a call or reach out via the form at the bottom of this page and we can talk you through things.

    Drug offences in Queensland

    Select an offence from the tabs below for more information including the maximum penalty, common case examples and practical tips. Use the form at the bottom of this page, or the email link above, to get in touch if you have been charged with any of these offences.

    A charge laid under s.9 of the Drugs Misuse Act 1986, possessing dangerous drugs is a serious offence under Queensland law and it is committed when somebody ‘unlawfully has possession’ of either a schedule 1 or schedule 2 drug.  The maximum penalty for possessing drugs in Queensland is between 15 and 25 years imprisonment with a criminal conviction, depending on the type and amount of drug possessed. 

    The maximum penalties which apply to possessing different schedule 1 and 2 drugs are complex and if you or a loved one has been charged we invite you to contact Townes & Associates to discuss the situation and let us help you understand where you stand.

    In the least serious cases, a person who is guilty of possessing the dangerous drugs cannabis, methamphetamine, cocaine or MDMA, may be eligible for a drug diversion order, a Drug and Alcohol Assessment Referral course, or a referral to the Drug Court (if in the Brisbane Magistrates Court jurisdiction).

    In the most serious case, a person guilty of possessing any dangerous drug of sufficient quantity will be deemed to have possessed it for a ‘commercial purpose’ and they will be subject to a maximum of 25 years imprisonment.

    If you would like to know more about possessing drugs in Queensland, use the tabs below to assist you.

    Drug possession is often committed in the following ways:

    A dog detection

    A person is on their way into a music festival and a Police drug detection dog identifies them as a person of interest.  Police, following the dog’s indication, search the person and find 2 capsules of MDMA powder hidden in their underwear.  A person charged with possessing MDMA in this circumstance, assuming they are a first offender and that the total weight of MDMA in the capsules was less than 1 gram, will likely – if they agree to it – be released on a Drug Diversion Order without a conviction being recorded.

    Drug raid

    Police execute a search warrant at a person’s home and find 20 grams of methylamphetamine (ice) split across several clip seal plastic bags alongside a digital scale and a few thousand dollars in cash.  Assuming this person is not charged with a more serious offence of supplying or trafficking dangerous drugs, even if they are a first offender they will likely be charged with possession for a commercial purpose and will receive a sentence of actual jail (as opposed to a suspended sentence or an immediate parole release).

    Please note these examples and penalties are illustrations only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    A person is not guilty of possessing dangerous drugs if they did not have ‘knowing possession’ of the substance. It is important to understand that ‘knowing possession’ does not mean ‘ownership’ – just because the drugs don’t belong to you does not mean you cannot be guilty of possessing them but the Police have to prove that you knew that the drugs were present at a place and that you had control over that place.

    Depending on the type and quantity of the dangerous drug possessed (and whether it is said to have been possessed for a commercial purpose), a charge of possession will be heard in either the Magistrates, District or Supreme Court

    If a client is charged with ‘commercial possession’ but instructs that they possessed the subject drugs for personal use (for example because buying in bulk is a cheaper way of feeding their significant drug habit) it is permissible to enter a plea of guilty to the charge but contest the allegation of commerciality.  Caution should be exercised before embarking on this course because the Court only need be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the possession was for a commercial purpose and the argument is lost (along with at least some of the sentencing discount for pleading guilty).

    If a client possesses a drug which falls outside the remit of a Drug Diversion Order consideration should be given to seeking a referral via the DAAR regime.  Be conscious that such a step requires that the client accept that the possession offence is connected to their addiction to, or at least abusive relationship with, the subject drug.

    If the client concedes that they have a drug addiction, and wishes to obtain assistance via the court process, consideration should be given to seeking a referral to the Drug Court if the matter is proceeding in the Brisbane Magistrates Court jurisdiction (meaning if it is a summary possession offence) or via the Queensland Magistrates Early Referral Into Treatment (QMERIT) program if the matter is proceeding in the Maroochydore or Redcliffe Magistrates Courts.

    A charge laid under s.6 of the Drugs Misuse Act 1986, supplying dangerous drugs is one of the most serious drug offences under Queensland law and it is committed when somebody ‘unlawfully supplies’ either a schedule 1 or schedule 2 drug ‘to another’.  The maximum penalty for drug supply in Queensland is between 15 years and life imprisonment with a criminal conviction. 

    There is a particularly serious category of drug supply called ‘aggravated supply’ which is committed when a person supplies drugs to a child, to a person with an intellectual impairment, inside a school, inside a jail or to a person who doesn’t know they are being supplied with a dangerous drug.  If a person supplies a schedule 1 drug in any of these aggravated circumstances they are liable to a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

    Even in the non-aggravated circumstance, depending on the case the penalties for drug supply in Queensland can be severe (normally including jail and a criminal record, even for first offenders).  If a person is convicted of aggravated drug supply and sent into prison they must, in some cases, serve 80% of their sentence inside jail before being eligible for release on parole.

    If you would like to know more about drug supply in Queensland use the tabs below to assist you

    Drug supply is often committed in the following ways:

    A dog detection and an admission

    A person is on their way into a music festival when a Police drug detection dog identifies them as a person of interest.  Police, following the dog’s indication, search the person and find 2 capsules of MDMA powder hidden in their underwear.  The person chooses to answer police questions (despite not being required to do so) and when asked why they had possession of the capsules they answer “one for me, one for my mate inside” and they are charged with supply. A person charged with supplying MDMA in this circumstance will be dealt with on indictment in the District Court and, assuming they are a youthful first offender, they might expect to receive a fine and/or a probation order with or without without a conviction being recorded.

    Awkward SMS text messages

    Police execute a search warrant at a person’s home and, despite finding no drugs, they do identify a number of SMS text messages on a mobile telephone, either in plain speak or thinly veiled code, which indicate that the owner of the phone has been trading in drugs.  Despite there being no actual drugs found, nor any other indicia of supply (like scales, bags or a tick book), the person who owns the phone will likely be charged with supply and they might expect to receive a probation order or even a jail sentence (perhaps suspended or with a parole arrangement) depending on the scale of the supplies revealed in the text messages. 

    Please note these examples and penalties are illustrations only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    A person is not guilty of supplying dangerous drugs if they did not know, and nobody in their position could reasonably have known, that the substance they were supplying was a dangerous drug.  While it is not impossible to do, if a person hopes to successfully defend a charge of drug supply on the basis that they were ignorant of the nature of the substance they were supplying, a lot will depend on the exact circumstances of the case and legal advice should be obtained at an early stage.  There is no need for the prosecution to prove that a person made a profit when supplying a drug, or that there was any commercial element at all.

    Depending on the type and quantity of the dangerous drug supplied, a charge of possession will be heard in either the Magistrates, District Court.

    A charge laid under s.5 of the Drugs Misuse Act 1986, trafficking in dangerous drugs is one of the most serious drug offences under Queensland law and it is committed when somebody ‘carries on the business of trafficking’ in either a schedule 1 or schedule 2 drug.  The maximum penalty for drug trafficking in Queensland is 25 years imprisonment with a criminal conviction. 

    Depending on the circumstances, the penalties for drug trafficking in Queensland can be severe (normally including jail and a criminal record, even for first offenders).  If a person is convicted of drug trafficking and sent into prison they must, in some cases, serve 80% of their sentence inside jail before being eligible for release on parole.

    If you would like to know more about drug trafficking in Queensland use the tabs below to assist you.

    Drug trafficking is often committed in the following ways:

    Business support for an addiction

    A person is a long term user of drugs who finds that the easiest way to support their habit is to buy large quantities of their preferred drug; to cover the cost of their own use at first and then to make a larger and larger profit as they become established in the market.  Eventually the police become aware of the person and they are arrested and charged with trafficking.  Depending on the scale of their operation, and assuming they are the controlling principal of it, this person might expect to spend between 6 months and 10 years (or even longer) inside of jail.

    The employee

    A person is addicted to drugs and their dealer offers to provide them with their preferred substance, for free, if the person sells drugs on the dealer’s behalf. When the police eventually arrest the person they have been selling half a kilogram of ice per week for 6 months straight (a very large operation).  Even if they were not the controlling mind of the business, this person should still expect to spend 7-10 years inside of jail if they are guilty of trafficking in that circumstance. If this person were to assist Police by providing information about their employer, and if they were to promise to give evidence against their employer in court, they might secure a lesser penalty.

    Please note these examples and penalties are illustrations only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    A person is not guilty of drug trafficking if they did not ‘carry on a business’ selling drugs.  There can often times be a very fine line between supplying for money and trafficking and it is sometimes possible to avoid a trafficking charge when the commercial benefit to a person is low (though they mights till be guilty of supply in that case). 

    A charge of drug trafficking will be heard in the Supreme Court

    A charge laid under s.8 of the Drugs Misuse Act 1986, producing dangerous drugs is one of the most serious drug offences under Queensland law and it is committed when somebody ‘unlawfully produces’ either a schedule 1 or schedule 2 drug.  The maximum penalty for producing drugs in Queensland is between 15 and 25 years imprisonment with a criminal conviction, depending on the type and amount of drug produced. 

    The maximum penalties which apply to producing different schedule 1 and 2 drugs are complex and if you or a loved one has been charged we invite you to contact Townes & Associates to discuss the situation and let us help you understand where you stand.

    Depending on the circumstances, the penalties for producing drugs in Queensland can be severe (often including jail and a criminal record, even for first offenders).  If a person is convicted of producing drugs and sent into prison they must, in some cases, serve 80% of their sentence inside jail before being eligible for release on parole.

    If you would like to know more about producing drugs in Queensland use the tabs below to assist you.

    Producing drugs is often committed in the following ways:

    Production for home consumption

    A person is a heavy cannabis user and, in the interests of saving money, they grow 10 plants in the back yard of their semi-rural property.  They have no intention of selling their produce, they simply want to ensure their own consistent and cost-effective supply of marijuana. Assuming this person is a first offender and the plants were predominantly seedlings at the time they are arrested, this person might expect to receive a fine either with or without a conviction being recorded.

    The large commercial enterprise

    Police execute simultaneous search warrants at 4 different rental properties, all of which have large scale hydroponic setups inside (with windows fully blacked out and highly professional timed lighting arrangements rigged directly to the power lines outside).  After some thorough investigation the police charge the person who was in control of all four houses, in which a total of 40 kilograms of cannabis was found, with producing dangerous drugs.  Assuming that this person is a first offender and that they are not charged with the more serious offence of trafficking, they might expect to spend between 3 and 5 years inside jail if they are guilty of producing in this circumstance. 

    Please note these examples and penalties are illustrations only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    A person is not guilty of producing dangerous drugs if the prosecution fail to prove an essential element of the offence or if one of the general ‘defences’ to a criminal charge, contained in chapter 5 of the Queensland Criminal Code applies.  

    Depending on the type and quantity of the dangerous drug produced, a charge of producing will be heard in either the Magistrates, District or Supreme Court

    A charge laid under division 307 (subdivision A) of the Commonwealth Criminal Code, importing border controlled drugs is one of the most serious drug offences under Australian law.  The maximum penalty for importing drugs into Australia is between 10 years and life imprisonment and/or a fine of between 2,000 and 7,500 penalty units, depending on the type and amount of drug imported. 

    There are 205 substances which are classified as border controlled drugs under Commonwealth law

    Depending on the circumstances, the penalties for producing drugs in Queensland can be severe (often including jail and a criminal record, even for first offenders).  If a person is convicted of producing drugs and sent into prison they must, in some cases, serve 80% of their sentence inside jail before being eligible for release on parole.

    If you would like to know more about producing drugs in Queensland use the tabs below to assist you.

    Importing drugs is often committed in the following ways:

    The mule

    A person accepts money from an associate overseas and they agree to carry a suitcase from Latin America to Australia, with a kilogram of cocaine sewn into the lining.  This person’s suitcase is identified by a drug detection dog upon arrival into Australia and Australian Border Force, and Federal Police officer’s quickly locate thew secreted drugs and charge the person with importing a marketable quantity of a border controlled drug. This person should expect to serve between 3 and 4 years in prison before being eligible for a release on parole (and deportation if they are a foreign national). 

    The mail order scheme

    A person opens several post boxes under different, false, names to which packages containing a total of 450 grams of MDMA are sent from China. All the packages are addressed to non-existent people but they are delivered to the person’s PO boxes who collects them. Unfortunately for the person, Australian customs officials intercept all of the packages and police commence surveillance of the delivery addresses, apprehending the person when they collect the packages.  Assuming they are a first offender and the head of the importation scheme (i.e. not being paid by someone else to collect the packages for them) this person could expect to spend 2-4 years inside of jail before being released on parole.  

    Please note these examples and penalties are illustrations only.  Every case is different and if you have been charged with an offence you should contact Townes & Associates for specific advice on your situation.

    A person is not guilty of importing border controlled drugs if it cannot be proved that they intended to import the relevant substance and/or that they were not at least reckless as to the nature of what was imported (i.e. that it was a border controlled drug).  Intention to import is most often proved by the fact that the importation did actually occur so, in reality, if defending a charge of importation it will be necessary to cast doubt on the suggestion that a person knew, or suspected, that what they were importing was a border controlled drug. 

    A person is also not guilty of importing a marketable or commercial quantity of a border controlled drug if they can prove, on the balance of probabilities, that they had no commercial motive in importing the substance.  In such a case the person might still be guilty of a lesser offence of importing a border controlled drug, simpliciter, which carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment, 

    Depending on the quantity of the drug which is imported, a charge of producing will be heard in either the, District or Supreme Courts.

    Importing a border controlled drug is a federal offence arising under the Commonwealth Criminal Code which means that the Crown must prove both a ‘physical’ and a ‘fault’ element for the offence to be made out (except in relation to the nature of the substance imported – no fault elements need be proved in relation to that aspect).  Engage with part 2.2 of the Code to come to grips with how Commonwealth offences are constructed.

    In the event that a client is guilty of importing a border controlled drug (or any other commonwealth offence for that matter) it is important to remember that the sentencing provisions contained in the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) apply rather than the Penalties & Sentences Act 1992 (except for some limited exceptions).

    Facing charges?

    If you or a loved one has been charged with possession, supply, trafficking or any other drug offence, you should contact Townes & Associates for a confidential, cost and obligation free discussion about the situation and how we can help.  Use the form below to get in touch, leave your best contact telephone number and we will give you call back at no cost to you.

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