As with others offences, drug offences range in seriousness from the relatively minor through to the most serious - large scale trafficking or importation charges which are heard in the superior courts (District or Supreme) and can attract up to life imprisonment.
The main drug offences are:
- Trafficking (the commercial supply of a dangerous drug);
- Importation (a Commonwealth offence).
Under the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 and Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987 dangerous drugs are split up into categories based upon which “schedule” they fall under within the Regulations. “Hard Drugs” such as heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, and ecstasy are classified as Schedule 1 drugs while other drugs such as cannabis, steroids, and pharmaceutical drugs such as morphine or antidepressants / antipsychotics are classified as Schedule 2 or 5 drugs.
Another significant consideration in drug matters is the quantity of the drug. Whether the quantity is above or below a specified amount determines whether the charge can be heard in the Magistrates Court (which is generally preferable), or whether the charge(s) must be heard in the District or Supreme Court.
As with most criminal cases, early engagement of specialist legal representation is vital, particularly in drug cases where the possibility of a successful defence can be damaged by an accused person being unaware of the danger of making admissions in records of interviews, or being recorded over the telephone by prosecuting authorities. This is particularly relevant for this category of offences because of the operation of the various proceeds of crime laws.