This article provides a comprehensive overview of drug possession offences in Victoria, detailing how charges are laid, the court process, the associated penalties, and the potential consequences.
Possession of drugs is a serious offence in Victoria and is governed by the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic). This legislation outlines the various offences related to drug possession, the process of laying charges, the court process, as well as the penalties and consequences associated with these offences.
Types of Possesion of Drugs Offences
- Possession of a Drug of Dependence: It is illegal to possess a drug of dependence without a valid prescription or authorization. A ‘drug of dependence’ refers to substances listed in the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act, which includes common drugs like cannabis, heroin, and methamphetamine.
- Possession of a Controlled Substance: Controlled substances are those that are regulated but not necessarily illegal, such as certain prescription medications. It is illegal to possess these substances without a valid prescription.
- Possession of Equipment or Material for Drug Trafficking: It is also illegal to possess any equipment or material that is used for drug trafficking, such as scales, bags, or any equipment used for cultivation or manufacture.
How Police Lay Charges
When police suspect someone of possessing drugs, they may conduct a search following the proper legal procedures. If drugs are found, the person may be arrested and taken into custody. The police will then prepare a brief of evidence, which includes all the evidence they have gathered, such as the drugs seized, any related equipment or materials, and statements from witnesses.
The police may then lay charges, and the accused will be issued with a summons to appear in court. The charges laid will depend on the type and quantity of drugs found, as well as any other related offences, such as possession of equipment for drug trafficking.
The court process for drug possession offences in Victoria typically involves the following stages:
- First Appearance: The accused will have a first appearance in the Magistrates’ Court, where they will be formally charged and asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
- Contest Mention: If the accused pleads not guilty, a contest mention date will be set. This is an opportunity for both parties to discuss the issues in the case and see if it can be resolved without going to trial.
- Committal Hearing: If the case is not resolved at the contest mention, a committal hearing will be held. This is a preliminary hearing where the magistrate decides if there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial.
- Trial: If the case proceeds to trial, the prosecution and defense will present their cases, and the judge or jury will deliver a verdict.
- Sentencing: If the accused is found guilty, a sentencing hearing will be held to determine the appropriate penalty.
Penalties for Possession of Drugs
The penalties for possession of drugs in Victoria vary depending on the type and quantity of drugs involved. For example, possession of a small quantity of a drug of dependence for personal use carries a maximum penalty of a fine or imprisonment for up to one year. However, possession of a larger quantity, or possession with the intent to sell or supply, carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for up to 15 years.
In addition to the legal penalties, a conviction for drug possession can have far-reaching consequences. It may result in a criminal record, which can affect employment prospects, travel opportunities, and eligibility for certain licenses and permits. It may also result in a loss of reputation and strained relationships with family and friends.
Possession of drugs is a serious offence in Victoria and carries severe penalties and consequences. It is important to be aware of the laws surrounding drug possession and to seek legal advice if you are facing charges for a drug-related offence. A qualified legal professional can help you understand your rights and options and provide guidance throughout the court process.