This information is provided as a guide only, and is not a substitute for legal advice.
1. I’ve been charged with possessing a small quantity of illegal drugs for personal use. What penalty will I receive?
In Queensland, it is illegal to possess even small amounts of dangerous drugs (including cannabis and MDMA or “ecstasy”).
If you are charged with a drug possession offence, you must consider whether you wish to plead guilty or not guilty to the charge. This is a decision that you should make with the help of a lawyer, who will assist you to understand the case against you, the strength of the police evidence and the range of penalties that may apply.
For first time offenders who wish to plead guilty to a minor charge, it may be possible to obtain an order for drug diversion via the Magistrates’ Court Illicit Drug Court Diversion Program. This is a rehabilitative option that aims to educate about the harms of drugs and prevent further drug use.
The penalties that you will receive on a plea of guilty to a minor drugs possession charge will vary depending on many factors, including the facts of the charge and your previous criminal history. Common penalties include drug diversion, fines, probation, community service and imprisonment, including actual custody.
2. What is drug diversion?
Drug Diversion is a penalty option that is available to eligible first-time offenders or those with a limited criminal history who are charged with certain minor drug offences, including:
- Possessing dangerous drugs for personal use (quantum restrictions apply);
- Failing to dispose of a syringe;
- Possessing anything use to administer, consume or smoke a dangerous drug; and
- Possessing anything used in connection with the commission of a drugs crime (personal use only).
In order to be eligible, you must plead guilty to the charges. You must also not have previously attended diversion more than twice in the past and or have previous convictions or pending charges for sexual or other serious offences.
If the court sentences you to drug diversion, you will be released on a good behaviour bond . This is a promise by you to be of good behaviour and not commit further offences. The Court will also direct you to attend a drug assessment and education session as a condition of the bond.
Drug diversion is often a cost effective and efficient option for dealing with a minor drugs possession charge. Of course, each case is different and we recommend you seek legal advice prior to attending court or pleading guilty to any charge.
3. Would I get a conviction recorded for a first offence?
In general, the courts have a discretion about whether to record a conviction for a first-time minor drug possession offence. This is because a drug conviction may have a significant impact in your life, including for employment, travel, insurance and other areas.
In certain circumstances, you may be required to disclose that you were charged with and/or convicted of a drugs offence even if no conviction was recorded. We strongly recommend that you seek legal advice about whether you fall into this category.
4. What if it isn’t my first offence?
If you have been previously convicted of a drugs or other offence, then you may not be eligible for drug diversion. Depending on the nature of the previous conviction/s and when they occurred, you may also receive a higher penalty.
Recorded convictions and even in some cases sentences of imprisonment (including actual jail time) may be imposed in certain cases of repeat offending. We strongly recommend seeking legal advice if this is not your first offence.
5. Do I need a criminal lawyer for a minor drugs charge?
In our experience, people often achieve a better outcome when they are legally represented (or have at least obtained legal advice).
There are some situations where getting the best outcome may be particularly important.
People are often surprised to learn that a drugs conviction can affect their career prospects. If you work for the government or are in a professional occupation, you may be required to disclose a conviction to your employer or other professional bodies. If that may apply to you, getting early legal advice is crucial.
We also strongly recommend that you seek legal advice if you are a repeat offender or if you need extra support or referrals to other experts in relation to your drug use. Early intervention and legal advice can hugely affect the outcome.
Going to court can be an extremely stressful experience, especially if you have never been in trouble with the law before. Having an experienced advocate by your side can provide reassurance and peace of mind. It is ultimately a personal decision whether to obtain legal representation.
6. What does it cost to hire a criminal lawyer?
The cost will vary depending on your needs.
For most drugs offences, Jasper Fogerty Lawyers offer the certainty of an affordable fixed-fee rate.
We also offer free initial telephone advice and case assessment, which may help you make a decision about whether you need legal representation. You can contact us 24/7.
We hope you have found this information useful.
Jasper Fogerty Lawyers are accredited specialists in criminal law, with extensive experience in all areas including traffic crime. We are available 24/7 for legal advice and representation.