Drugs…know the law and protect yourself
Are drugs illegal?
Yes. Possession and use of recreational or prescription drugs (without a valid prescription) is illegal in Victoria.
Drug laws differ a little across Australia so if you’re travelling interstate be sure to keep this in mind.
What about medical marijuana?
The Victorian government is moving toward legalising medical marijuana. The proposed scheme would allow people with an approved medical condition to access and use locally produced cannabis if prescribed by a doctor. The scheme is expected to be up and running on a limited basis form 2017. Until then, possession and use of marijuana for any reason remains a criminal offence for which you can be charged and prosecuted.
Can I go to gaol for having drugs?
Possession of a small amount of drugs for personal use is usually considered a minor criminal matter that will usually attract a fine if not able to be dealt with by a caution or diversion (see below).
Serious drugs charges such as trafficking and importation, or minor charges if you have previously been to court for similar offending, are likely to result in a supervised order (which will require you to undergo treatment and/or complete a period of unpaid community work) or imprisonment.
If you are caught with a small amount of drugs for personal use the police may let you off with a caution. A caution is recorded on the internal police database so they can see if you have been cautioned in the past.
The police are usually more willing give a caution if you are cooperative and polite, and admit to having the drugs.
If the police are unwilling to give you a caution but still consider the matter to be fairly minor, they may charge you but offer to drop the charge if you complete a Drug Diversion Plan.
A Diversion Plan will contain a number of requirements, depending on what the officer thinks is necessary. A typical Drug Diversion Plan will require you to attend two appointments at a drug treatment agency.
If you comply with the Diversion Plan the police officer will recommend to the court that the charge against you be discontinued. In this case you will have no mark on your criminal record.
Drug Diversion will usually be granted only if you have not been in trouble before and are cooperative, polite, and admit to having the drugs.
If a caution or Diversion are refused you will be required to attend court to answer the charge. It’s best to call a lawyer in this situation.
If you are found guilty of the charge the Court will need to decide whether to record a conviction against your name or not. It is always best to avoid a recorded conviction if possible. A recorded conviction can be disclosed and can cause havoc for employment prospects and travel plans.
Your ability to avoid having a conviction recorded will depend on a number of factors, including the amount and type of the drug you’re found with, whether you’ve been in trouble before, and your attitude. The best way to avoid a conviction is to be legally represented.
What should I do if the police want to speak to me?
How you conduct yourself when being spoken to by police about a drug matter can have a huge impact upon the ultimate outcome. Sometimes it is best to cooperate with police and admit your guilt or assert your innocence sooner rather than later. However, sometimes it is best to simply say nothing until you or your lawyer has an opportunity to assess the evidence against you. Which option is right for you will depend on a number of factors and is best discussed with a lawyer.
If the police want to speak to you we advise that you tell them clearly and calmly that you intend to cooperate with them fully but would like to speak to a lawyer first.
Call us immediately. If we don’t answer immediately call us again or send a text message with your name and number and we’ll call you back. We have a lawyer on call 24/7 but he or she may be on another call or ordering a coffee. Be patient. Speaking to a lawyer is your right and can help you avoid digging the hole deeper.
We encourage our clients and their family and friends to save our number in their phone so that you can reach us whenever you need to. Our after hours numbers are 1300 616 183 and 0401 564 044.
For more information about your rights and the law click here to see our other fact sheets.