Like it or not, illegal drugs are all around us. Just because you've been caught up in the world of illicit drugs does not mean you are a bad person, or deserve a lengthy prison sentence. Working with a dependable criminal lawyer and potentially taking a plea deal for reduced term behind bars can make all the difference for you or a loved one.
Queensland drug law
Charges for drug-related crimes can vary widely, depending on the type of offence, as well as the class of drug in question and its quantity. The punishment for being in possession of a drug varies widely from crimes like drug production, trafficking, or running a drug lab.
Under Australian law, illegal drugs are divided into two categories. Schedule 1 drugs are the narcotics considered the most destructive, and their possession or production carries far greater penalties, according to the Queensland state government. These include methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and psychedelic drugs like LSD. Schedule 2 drugs, meanwhile, are those that are less dangerous, and tend to have lower maximum penalties. Some examples of Schedule 2 drugs include cannabis, morphine and some depressants (such as barbiturates).
In addition to the classification of the drug involved, the amount of the substance and crime being committed with it can result in wide-ranging severity of sentences. Possessing a small amount of a drug for personal use, for example, will be charged differently than possession of a larger amount, which would suggest intent to sell.
Other crimes with more severe sentences include trafficking, supplying or cultivating an illegal drug. Each of these terms describe a different part of the way drugs get from illegal farms and labs to users. Trafficking is defined as any action that is part of a "illegal commercial operation." Supplying generally refers to the disbursement of drugs at a far smaller scale, such as dealing a small amount of cannabis or giving a pill to a friend.
Australians can also be charged for owning drug-related paraphernalia, such as a cocaine spoon or syringes, even if an illicit substance isn't present. Operating an automobile under the influence of drugs is also a separate crime from mere possession, and carries far more serious consequences.
For authorities to prove possession or a similar crime, they must be able to find clear knowledge, custody and control of the illicit substance. Knowledge means that the guilty party was aware that they had the drug in their custody. If for example, the drug was planted on their person, or the person was misled about what the substance was, they can make a case for their innocence. (Custody means that the illegal drug is clearly on the defendant's person or in a place, like their car or home, that they clearly claim ownership of.)
Finally, control means that the defendant had the right to use or keep the drugs. In other words, the drugs were clearly theirs. This last element is often used when police find drugs in a shared home and not everyone in the residence was involved. In some cases, joint custody can be attributed, in which multiple people are held responsible.
Pleading down a charge
If you, or someone you know, has been charged with a drug crime and don't have the means to prove innocence, it may be time to look at taking a plea. Plea deals are agreements with the prosecutor in which the defendant pleads guilty in exchange for a more lenient sentence, keeping the case out of trial.
Whether you decide to pursue a plea deal or fight the case in court, you'll want the assistance of a well-regarded criminal solicitor. Your solicitor can work to negotiate the best, most realistic deal with the prosecution, possibly saving you years in prison or thousands of dollars in fines. An expert criminal lawyer can also protect you or your loved one from unlawful or invasive questioning in or before a case goes to court. Representation can be the difference between your drug charge being a minor or life-defining moment.
If you've been charged with a crime, consider Russo Lawyers for representation. Contact us today to learn more.