Possessing Controlled Drugs

Possessing Controlled Drugs

Possessing Controlled Drugs is found in section 308.1 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995. It is committed by a person who was found to be in possession of a substance which is identified as a controlled drug.

Have you been accused of Possessing Controlled Drugs?

Cannabis
Police Interview
Before going to any interview or speaking with Police about an allegation of Possessing Controlled Drugs, you should speak to a lawyer to understand your rights and options. People mistakenly believe that if they tell the Police their side of the story that the matter will simply go away. That is not the case at all. A Police interview is not a chance for you to explain your side. The interview is part of the Police investigation.

Pleading Not Guilty
If you want to fight a charge of Possessing Controlled Drugs, we can conduct our own investigation and carefully examine the Police brief of evidence. Our lawyers are dedicated defence lawyers and will look for flaws in the prosecution case against you.

Our lawyers are expert cross examiners and will meticulously pick apart the prosecution case through careful and deliberate cross examination.

Pleading Guilty
If you want to plead guilty to Possessing Controlled Drugs, we can work with you to prepare for the best possible outcome. There is a lot of material that can be gathered for a plea hearing, including possible medical reports and character references. We work closely with you to understand your background so we can best present your story to the court in a plea hearing to secure a fair outcome.

Sentencing
Sentencing in the higher courts of VictoriaSentencing Statistics Pie Chart for Possess a Controlled Drug in the Higher Courts
Although this is a Commonwealth offence, this charge may also be heard in a State court and the accused may be tried, punished or otherwise dealt with as if the offence were an offence against the law of the State or Territory that involved the possession or use of a controlled drug.1 This offence is ordinarily heard in Victorian higher courts.


[1] Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) s 308.1(3)
 
Examples of Possessing Controlled Drugs
  • A person possesses heroin.
  • A person possesses cannabis or cannabis resin.
  • A person possesses methylamphetamine.
What is the legal definition of Possessing Controlled Drugs?
  1. A person commits an offence if:
    1. the person possesses a substance; and
    2. the substance is a controlled drug, other than a determined controlled drug.
    Penalty: Imprisonment for 2 years or 400 penalty units, or both.
  2. The fault element for paragraph (1)(b) is recklessness.
Legislation
The relevant legislative provision for this offence is section 308.1 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) (the Act).

Elements of the offence
For a person to be found guilty of this offence, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused is in possession of a substance;
  2. The substance is a controlled drug.
Element 1: The accused is in possession of a substance
‘Possess’ a substance means2:

  1. Receiving or obtaining possession of the substance;
  2. Having control over the disposition of the substance (whether or not the substance is the custody of the person);
  3. Having joint possession of the substance.
Element 2: The substance is a controlled drug
A ‘controlled substance’ is a substance, other than a growing plant, that is3:

  1. Listed by a regulation as a controlled drug4; or
  2. A drug analogue of a listed controlled drug5; or
  3. Determined by the AFP Minister as a controlled drug under section 301.13 of the Act (which deals with emergency determinations of serious drugs).
The accused must be ‘reckless’ as to whether the substance is a controlled drug for this element to be satisfied.6 This will be the case if the accused is aware of a substantial risk that the substance is a controlled drug and, given that there is a substantial risk that the substance is controlled drug, it is unjustified to have possession of it.7

“Was the substance a controlled drug?”

[2] Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) s 72.36
[3] Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 Cth) s 301.1
[4] See Criminal Code Regulations 2002 (Cth) Schedule 3 for a list of controlled drugs.
[5] See Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) s 301.9 for the definition of ‘drug analogue’.
[6] Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) s 308.1(2)
[7] Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) s 5.4

 
Defences to this charge are ordinarily based on some element of the offence not being made out. These defences include:

  • The accused is not in possession of a substance;
  • The substance is not a controlled drug.
Depending on the circumstances, the following defences may also be available:

  • Mental impairment8
  • Duress9
Questions in cases like this
  • Is the person in possession of a substance?
  • Is the substance a controlled drug?
  • Have the police tested the substance and established that the substance is a controlled drug, or are they merely alleging that the substance is a controlled drug without any testing having taken place?
You should ring us and discuss your case if you have been charged. Deciding on whether to plead guilty or not has important implications for you and should be made after proper discussions with a criminal lawyer.


[8] Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) s 7.3
[9] Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) s 10.2

 

The maximum penalty for (s308.1 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995) is 400 penalty units (a $84,000 fine) or imprisonment for 2 years, or both.10

The value of a penalty unit will automatically increase in line with the Consumer Price Index from July 2020, and every 3 years after.11



[10] Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) s 308.1
[11] Australian Government, ‘Commonwealth Penalty Units Increase’, accessed 17/11/2018 <https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/Large-business/In-detail/Business-bulletins/Articles/Commonwealth-penalty-units-increase/>.