It seems as though police and drug detection dogs are a permanent fixture at music festivals these days, with some events resulting in hundreds of drug-related arrests.
If you’re one of the many people headed to Future Music Festival or Soundwave tomorrow, it’s a good idea to know your rights if approached by police and to be aware of the penalties you might face if charged with drug possession.
Here are our ‘top ten tips’ when it comes to dealing with police at music festivals:
1. Make sure police have a right to search
It’s no secret that police can often be intimidating when they approach you, but it’s important to know that they aren’t allowed to search you for just any reason.
Police can only search you if they have a suspicion ‘on reasonable grounds’ that you have drugs or a dangerous item on you, or that you have, or are about to, commit an offence.
If you’re unsure, calmly ask the police officer why they want to search you, and if they don’t give a valid reason, politely decline to be searched.
If they conduct an illegal search, any evidence that they collect can be thrown out in court.
2. Give police your details – and say nothing else!
You aren’t required to give police your details unless you are arrested or reasonably suspected of committing a crime – but doing so can ensure that the process runs more smoothly.
But you should politely decline to answer any other questions.
3. Don’t hide drugs in your hair or mouth
Police have the power to ask you to open your mouth or shake or move your hair if they reasonably believe you are concealing drugs.
Failing to comply with such a request can result in a fine of up to $550.
4. Remain calm
Dealing with cops can be a frustrating experience – but getting angry or aggressive certainly won’t hope your case.
5. Record the incident
If police stop and search you, get a friend to videotape the incident on a phone.
This is perfectly legal as long as you don’t hinder or interfere with police in carrying out their duties.
6. Be aware of the charge of ‘deemed supply’
If you have more than the ‘traffickable quantity’ of drugs on you, police can charge you with ‘drug supply’ even if there is no evidence that you were actually supplying drugs.
This is called ‘deemed supply’, and you can be charge for having just 0.75 grams of ‘ecstacy’ (3 or 4 pills) or more than 3 grams of amphetamine, cocaine or heroin.
Drug supply carries heavier penalties than drug possession.
7. Don’t say anything if drugs are found
Even if police find drugs on you, you do not have an obligation to answer their questions – and it’s usually in your best interests to stay silent, as anything that you say can be used against you in court and could even lead to a more serious charge being laid against you.
8. Know about the cannabis cautioning scheme
Police have discretion to issue you with a ‘caution’ if you are found with less than 15 grams of cannabis in your possession, rather than taking you to court.
The caution will not appear on your criminal record.
9. Don’t resist if arrested
If arrested, stay calm and don’t fight back or hinder police – doing so may give rise to the charge of ‘resisting arrest’ or even ‘assaulting police’, which carries heavy penalties.
10. It’s not the end of the world!
Being charged with a minor drug offence doesn’t necessarily lead to a criminal record– especially if you’re being represented by an experienced drug lawyer.
There is more information about this below.
Penalties for Drug Possession
Drug possession carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment and / or a fine of $2,200.
But this is the absolute maximum which is usually only imposed in the most serious cases.
So what are the most common penalties for drug possession?
Statistics published by the Judicial Commission of New South Wales show that the most common penalty for drug possession is a fine – 58.8% of cases.
But unfortunately, a fine also comes with a criminal record.
The most common fine is $200.
Fines were closely followed by a ‘section 10 bond (now conditional release order without conviction)’, which is a good behaviour bond without a criminal record.
The third most common penalty was a ‘section 10 dismissal’, which is where the case is dismissed without a conviction or a bond.
Interestingly, only 1.4% of all people who were guilty of drug possession ended up in prison.
Why Should I See a Specialist Drug Lawyer?
While being charged with a drug offence can be stressful and nerve-wracking, it doesn’t always lead to a criminal conviction.
Having a specialist drug lawyer on your side can give you the highest chance of getting your case dropped or thrown out of court if you wish to plead guilty.
Drug cases are often won where police have conducted an illegal search or where they cannot prove that you possessed the drugs ‘exclusively’.
The expert defence team at Sydney Drug Lawyers is comprised of some Australia’s most respected criminal defence lawyers, who are vastly experienced in drug cases.
Our knowledge of the law and extensive experience fighting and winning drug cases sets us a cut above the rest when it comes to getting cases dropped and thrown out of court, and helping clients to avoid convictions if they wish to plead guilty.
We recently represented nine clients who were wishes to plead guilty to drug possession at last year’s Stereosonic festival.
We helped our clients to avoid criminal convictions in every one of those cases, and our results are consistently the best in the profession.
So if you are facing drug charges, call us today to book a FREE first conference.
And remember, we offer fixed fees for all drug possession cases, and those fees are published on our website – so you will know exactly how much your case will cost from the very start.