Unfortunately, dance parties and music festivals have become synonymous with drug and alcohol abuse. At major and minor music events, New South Wales police are seen searching partygoers with the help of drug detection dogs. These overt operations are intended to deter people from smuggling in drugs and alcohol, and reducing any chance of drug and alcohol induced violence or over dose.
There have been a spate of recent tragedies at music festivals and dance parties which have seen young people overdose on illicit substances. Media sources often highlight violent altercations and verbal abuse at these social events. As a result, NSW Police maintain a strong presence throughout these events, and rarely use their discretion when people are found to have taken illicit drugs, or are found in possession of them. This is because drug abuse is deemed as anti social and dangerous, and results in serious repercussions.
If you have been charged with drug use, possession or distribution, you could be facing very serious penalties. The Courts take a very firm stance on drugs due to their destructive nature on individuals and the community. You may be facing large fines, imprisonment and a permanent mark on your criminal record. If you have been charged with possession or supply of an illicit substance, you should contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer immediately.
The drug laws which regulate use, possession and supply at dance parties and music festivals are the same laws which apply to use, possession and supply in any other location. The difference is that you are more likely to be detected at a dance party or music festival because of the increased number of police officers and drug detection dogs. The same can be said for drug smuggling through customs, although this area of the law is regulated by the Commonwealth Criminal Code as a national scheme.
The law which applies in New South Wales is the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985. For each offence – use, possession and supply – the prosecution must prove all the necessary elements of the crime have been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt. A good criminal defence lawyer may be able to find flaws in the prosecution’s submissions, and build a strong defence in your case.
If you have been charged at a dance party or music festival, it is likely to be for drug use, drug possession or drug supply. Those three offences will be examined in more detail below.
Using an illicit substance is prohibited under section 12 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act. The provision makes it illegal to “self-administer”, that is, to inject, swallow, inhale or snort any prohibited drug without a legal prescription.
It may be difficult for police to prove that a person has used an illicit substance without witnessing the event. Police often rely on the accused’s submissions, or must wait for a doctor to conduct a blood test if the accused has been placed under arrest.
In some circumstances, the police may be able to reasonably assume a person is under the influence of a prohibited drug by their impaired cognitive function. This means the police may be able to arrest you if you appear to have used an illicit substance.
What is a “prohibited drug” is defined in the definitions section of the Act as a substance listed in Schedule 1. The list is very extensive, and covers many, if not all, of the commonly used party drugs consumed at dance parties and music festivals.
It is a defence to a charge under section 12 to self-administer drugs which have been prescribed by a medical doctor. This is a very narrow defence, and is applied strictly. Certain substances can be prescribed for medical reasons, however, consumption of party drugs at social gatherings will certainly not fall under this defence.
Under section 13 of the Act, it is also an offence to administer drugs to another person, and under section 14, it is an offence to allow another person to self-administer prohibited drugs without a prescription. So in some circumstances, not only may your friend be charged under section 12 for using a prohibited drug at a music festival or dance party, but you may also be charged simply for allowing them to do so.
If you have been charged under section 12 with self-administering a prohibited drug at a dance party or music festival, or under sections 13 or 14 for administering to another person or allowing them to self-administer, you should seek expert legal counsel immediately. A criminal lawyer may be able to raise a strong defence in your case, or help you minimise any penalties the Court may impose on you. The penalty for using prohibited drugs is a maximum fine of 20 penalty units (approximately $2,200.00) and/or a maximum prison sentence of 2 years.
Possessing prohibited drugs is an offence under section 10 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985. Section 10(1) provides that “a person who has a prohibited drug in his or her possession is guilty of an offence”. Under section 10(2), there are legal exceptions to the rule in section 10(1). These include a licence to possess drugs (such as those held by doctors and pharmacists), a prescription for the drugs, or the possession of drugs for the sole purpose of administering to another person with a prescription.
Like the penalty for use, the penalty for possession of prohibited drugs is a maximum fine of 20 penalty units and/or a maiximum prison sentence of 2 years.
To prove the accused had possession of the drugs, the prosecution must make out the physical and mental elements of the crime (the actus reus and mens rea). This means the prosecution must show beyond reasonable doubt that the accused had “custody” or “control” of the drug, and that the accused knew that they had custody or control of the prohibited drug.
For custody, it is often clear whether a person is in custody of the drug. It will be in their pockets or on their person. Control can also be made out where the prosecution can show that the accused stashed the drug at a location, and went back to it at some point. Even though it was not on them physically, the accused in this case would be deemed to have had control of the drug.
The prosecution must also show that the accused knew they were in possession of the prohibited drug. This is not an objective test. It is the accused’s state of knowledge that is in question. However, where a prohibited drug is found in someone’s possession, it will be inferred that they had knowledge of it. An expert criminal defence lawyer may be able to raise a valid defence where the accused can reasonably show they did not have actual knowledge of the drug in their possession. This is a difficult defence to make out, and you should contact a professional solicitor to discuss any options available to you.
Supplying prohibited drugs is an offence under sections 25, 25A, 29 and 40 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985. Section 3 defines supply broadly to mean not only selling and giving drugs away, but also simply agreeing to sell or give away drugs.
Even if the drug is not really a prohibited drug, but the accused has given the impression to someone that it is for the purposes of sale, they will be guilty of selling drugs whether it is a prohibited drug or not (section 40).
A person may be charged with supplying a prohibited drug under the “deemed supply” law, even without intending to supply the drug. This is because it is presumed that a person has the intention of supplying a prohibited drug due to the amount of the drug in their possession. This is referred to as the “traffickable quantity” and varies depending on the drug. As an example, a traffickable quantity of cannabis is 300 grams, heroin, amphetamines, and ecstasy is 3 grams, and LSD is 0.003 grams. The amount for indictable quantities, commercial quantities and large commercial quantities are even higher, and these carry even more severe penalties.
If you are at a music festival or dance party, the police can give “reasonable direction” to you if they have reason to suspect you are supplying or purchasing prohibited drugs. Under section 197 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002, it is an offence to fail to comply with a direction without a valid excuse.
If you have been charged with supplying prohibited drugs at a dance party or music festival, depending on the amount in question, you may be facing very serious penalties. These include a maximum of $220,000 fine, and/or 15 years imprisonment for an indictable quantity. Although rare, if you have been charged with supplying a large commercial quantity, you may be liable to fines in excess of $500,000 and/or life imprisonment.
Being charged with supplying prohibited drugs is a very serious matter. If you have been charged with supplying prohibited drugs, it is vital that you contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer immediately. They may be able to raise a defence to your charge, and can help minimise any penalties you may receive. Drug offences often carry criminal convictions, meaning your charge may be recorded on your criminal record, making it extremely difficult for you to find employment in the future. Your future livelihood and your freedom may be at stake. Do not hesitate to contact our office and make an appointment to see one of our expert Sydney criminal lawyers today.