What penalties do the courts really hand-down for drug possession charges?


Ever wondered what the penalties are for drug possession ?

Not the maximum penalties – but the penalties that are really handed-down by the courts?

It might surprise you that most people who are guilty of drug possession receive criminal convictions.

The most common penalty imposed in the local courts was a fine – 13,911 out of 23,549 cases. A fine carries a criminal record.

This certainly raised a few eyebrows at our firm.

Perhaps our surprise is partly due to our experience and knowledge of the law, including the decisions of the High Court of Australia in The Queen v Adams and the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal in R v Maugher – which are heavily relied upon by good criminal lawyers to maximise the prospects of avoiding criminal convictions in drug cases by achieving ‘section 10s’.

The statistics are all-the-more surprising given the enormous amount of information available about ‘how to get a section 10 in drug possession cases’.

Just doing a Google search will bring up a whole host of informative website pages and blogs from a number of criminal law firms.

You can access some of our information by clicking on the following links:

  • Click here for a video on ‘how to get a section 10 in a drug case’
  • Click here for a general video about drug possession
  • Click here to see our comprehensive website page, or
  • Click here to read one of our blogs about drug possession

That information can assist anyone to prepare for their court date, even if they can’t afford a lawyer or just want to represent themselves.

I certainly don’t want to ‘jinx’ myself or appear to be on a high horse, but I cannot remember a first-time guilty plea where I didn’t achieve a section 10 for a client in a small drug possession case eg 3 or 4 ecstacy pills, a couple of grams of cocaine etc.

And I’ve undertaken dozens over the past year alone, and many hundred over my career.

Like my fellow senior lawyers, I will always make sure that I am fully prepared before going into court for a client in any criminal or traffic case – however minor or serious it might be.

After all, a criminal conviction can have drastic consequences on my client’s career, their reputation and, in some cases, their ability to travel.

I took a closer look through the statistics and, yes, a fine was also very common (although not nearly as common as a section 10) in cases where the defendant:

  1. had no previous convictions at all, and
  2. pleaded guilty – rather than being found guilty after a defended hearing .

In fact, 2,130 out of 6,390 first time offenders who pleaded guilty were given fines (and therefore criminal convictions).

4,531 were given section 10(1)(b) good behaviour bonds or section 10(1)(a) dismissals.

I ran those statistics past our other senior lawyers and they were astounded at how many first time offenders with no previous convictions were given fines/convictions for drug possession.

They put it down to a range of factors including inadequate preparation, poor knowledge of the leading case-law and mediocre presentation.

Perhaps they’re right.

Whatever the case may be, you can certainly increase your chances of avoiding a conviction for drug possession by taking the time and making the effort to thoroughly prepare for court.

The right steps can make all the difference!

Anyway, enough of that.

Here’s an overview of the sentencing statistics published by the NSW Judicial Commission for ‘all offenders’ in drug possession cases in the local courts between April 2010 and March 2014:

Drug type Number of cases

 Prison

conv

 

 Susp

sentence
conv

 

 CSO

conv

 

 S9 bond

     conv     

 

 Fine

conv

                   

 S10A

conv

                   

 S10

bond


no
conv

                    

 S10

dismissal


no 
conv

 

‘Other’ drug types 14 00% 00% 00% 214% 1071% 00% 214% 00% 
Heroin 1531 735% 231% 2less than 1% 26017% 94362% 1077% 705% 493% 
Cannabis 15551 1941% 90less than 1% 43less than 1% 14109% 10966
71%
6774% 12178% 9496% 
LSD 204 00% 1less than 1% 21% 73% 8944% 00% 8441% 2110% 
Sedatives 268 00% 00% 00% 1515% 9034% 41% 12747% 3212% 
Cocaine 1253 71% 00% 2less than 1% 746% 43335% 101% 60248% 12510% 
Ecstasy 4728 6less than 1% 4less than 1% 6less than 1% 1303% 138029% 431% 226948% 89019% 

previous post: Proposed Law could allow ASIO to use Torture when Investigating Terrorism

next post: Intellectual Disability and Mental Health Orders

Author Image

About Ugur Nedim

Ugur Nedim is an Accredited Specialist Criminal Lawyer and Principal at Sydney Criminal Lawyers, Sydney's leading firm of criminal and traffic defence lawyers.
  • (will not be published)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>