If charged with an you should receive a document which tells you what law police believe you have broken. For example: Section 73 of the Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Act (Vic).
Most drug offences in Australia are found in the following laws:
- Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), opens in a new window
- Drugs of Dependence Act 1989 (ACT), opens in a new window and Criminal Code 2002 (ACT), opens in a new window
- Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW), opens in a new window
- Misuse of Drugs Act 1990 (NT), opens in a new window
- Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld), opens in a new window
- Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA), opens in a new window
- Misuse of Drugs Act 2001 (Tas), opens in a new window
- Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic), opens in a new window
- Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 (WA), opens in a new window
Each drug offence will have a maximum term of imprisonment attached to it along with a maximum fine that could be issued (listed as a ‘penalty unit’ or ‘PU’).
Fines can be issued along with, or as an alternative, to going to prison.
For example, a person convicted for possessing under Section 24 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 2001 (Tas) could incur the penalties of a fine up to 50 or imprisonment up to 2 years.
What does a ‘penalty unit’ mean in Australian dollars? That differs in each state and territory and changes every financial year.
This financial year (2023 to 2024) 1 penalty unit = $110 (NSW), $154.80 (QLD), $160 (ACT), $192.31 (VIC), $176 (NT), $181 (Tas), $275 (Cth).
South Australia and Western Australia do not provide 'penalty units' for offences, but list maximum fine amounts under law that a court could issue. For example, or consumption of a controlled drug in South Australia carries a maximum penalty of $3000. Similarly, or use of a prohibited drug in Western Australia (a 'simple offence') carries a maximum penalty of $2000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both.
Legal penalties for drug offences relating to methamphetamine are different across Australian jurisdictions.
Penalties also vary by the type of offence (i.e. vs. . The maximum penalties may also depend on whether the charges through or proceedings. See glossary for definitions.
The two most common drug offences are 'possession' and ‘supply or trafficking’ offences. So what do these offences mean?
includes physically carrying an illegal drug on you, or having it at your place of residence or in your motor vehicle. Possession also includes jointly possessing a drug with another person.
Possession is usually less serious than other drug offences such as or trafficking, but can still carry a prison sentence – particularly if someone has been charged multiple times.
Supply or trafficking means providing an illegal drug to another person (most people call this ).
Traditionally a trafficker is considered someone who exchanges drug(s) for money, property or services. However, if any illegal drug is passed onto others (even friends) this is also considered to be ‘trafficking’.
Being charged with ‘dealing’ methamphetamine is very serious and likely will result in a term of imprisonment.
You can be charged with supply or trafficking offences either because you are ‘caught’ dealing or you have in your possession enough methamphetamine that you are deemed to be supplying or trafficking the drug.
In most parts of Australia three levels of 'dealing' have been outlined;
- ‘commercial’ and
- ‘large commercial’ or ‘marketable’ thresholds.
These thresholds are based on the quantity of drug involved. A ‘trafficable’ amount of methamphetamine can be as low as 2 grams.
People can still be charged with trafficking if they have less than these amounts. For example, if they are caught with evidence of intent to traffic, such as large sums of money, drugs distributed into multiple bags or in the act of supplying drugs to another — even friends.