Drug offences and Penalties

Claud Mccoid

Drug offences in Western Australia are a serious matter. Depending on the severity of the offence, penalties for drug offences can range from a small fine to serving many years in prison. But with many different substances around, and different laws pertaining to each one and quantity, it can become very confusing, especially when confronted by police. 

If you are investigated by police or have been caught in possession, you must speak to a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. 

Here’s everything you need to know about drug offences in WA:

What are the general drug offences in Western Australia?

Here in WA, it’s the Misuses of Drugs Act 1981 that regulates drug crimes. The Act is very clear in laying out what is a crime and what isn’t. When it comes to prohibited drugs, it is a crime when someone: 

(a) with intent to sell or supply it to another, has in his or her possession a prohibited drug; 

(b) manufactures or prepares a prohibited drug;

(c) sells or supplies, or offers to sell or supply, a prohibited drug to another person. 

What counts as possession?

Possession can mean a variety of things. The general test to the term “possession” is whether the accused has “dominance” and “control” over the item. Firstly and most obviously, it means having drugs on your person. That means you literally have the drugs in your hand, in your pocket, or in your car, bag, or anything that belongs to you. Knowledge and intent may play a role in determining whether you have “possession” of the drug. If you threw some drugs off a bridge and the police saw you – you could still be charged with possession – even though you don’t actually have them on you. 

What is possession with the intent to supply?

This is one of the most common drug charges in WA. There are a very specific set of circumstances that result in this charge being laid down. Here’s how it’s determined:

  • The drug in question is in fact an “illicit substance”.
  • The accused had the drugs in their possession (for example: on their person or in their car).
  • There is evidence that the accused had supplied or sold drugs. 
  • That the amount of drugs found is above the “presumptive amount” in accordance to the relevant schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act

Maximum penalties for possession and supply offences

The law recognises a clear difference between possession and supply charges. As such they carry different penalties. The reason for this is because of the “element of commerciality” involved and the detriment that the drug has to the general public. For example, if you are caught with a large enough quantity of a prohibited drug, it will be assumed you had the intention to supply, regardless of whether the drugs were intended for personal use over a long period. Here are the maximum penalties for both scenarios:

  • Simple Possession offences: a maximum $2000 fine and/or 2 years in prison
  • Supply offences: a maximum $100,000 fine and/or 25 years in prison

Maximum penalties for drug trafficking offences

Drug trafficking offences in Western Australia are charged as a supply offence. For a trafficking charge to be made, the court must be satisfied that the person has in the past ten years been convicted of:

(i) serious drug offences (due to amount of drug found);

(ii) external serious drug offences (such as interstate or overseas); or 

(iii) offences, one or more of which are serious drug offences and one or more of which are external serious drug offences.

The maximum penalties for this charge are the same as the above supply offence unless the drug is cannabis, where the maximum penalty is $20,000 and/or 10 years in prison.

What about possession and use of cannabis?

While both possession and use of cannabis are illegal, if you are 14 years and older and caught with either of the following you may be eligible for a cannabis intervention scheme, avoiding a serious charge or fine:

  • 10 grams or less of cannabis or cannabis seeds which are intended for personal use alone; or
  • A smoking device with traces of cannabis

In these cases, a police officer may elect to have the offender attend a Cannabis Intervention Program. This requires that person to attend a drug intervention counselling session within 28 days of the order being given. If this requirement is not fulfilled, then the WA Police can still prosecute the offender.. 

Convicted of a drug offence? Call a lawyer now.

Have the police been asking you questions? Have you been caught in possession of an illicit substance? 

If so, you must seek legal assistance as soon as possible. Police can and will use anything you say against you in court, and anyone who doesn’t know their way around the law can put themselves in more trouble by saying the wrong thing. 

Not sure where to start?

Contact a criminal lawyer. Legal firms such as WN Legal offer experience and expertise in criminal law that will help you fight the charge.

Don’t leave it up to the court to decide for you. Give yourself the best chance by getting qualified legal advice now. 

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