Just because you are facing drug charges, it doesn’t mean that you have to end up with a criminal conviction.
It may even be possible for you to avoid a criminal conviction for a serious drug charge.
Is it possible for lawyers to get a non conviction order for drugs?
One of the biggest ways that defendants can let themselves down and fail to achieve the best possible results in their case is to believe there is no way to beat the charges, and resign themselves to fate.
But this simply isn’t true.
Experienced drug lawyers can help you avoid a conviction, sometimes for serious charges and even if you plead guilty.
The penalties set out by legislation are the maximum penalties only, and it is very rare that the most severe penalty will be given.
So the job of a good drug lawyer is to get you the best possible result – and in many cases your drug charges can be dropped early-on or thrown out of court.
But if the evidence is very strong and you wish to plead guilty, you may still be able to avoid a conviction by getting what’s known as a ‘non conviction order’.
Non conviction orders are part of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act. It allows a magistrate or judge to completely dismiss the charges against someone who pleads guilty or is found guilty of a criminal offence – including a drug offence.
Under non conviction order, the court can alternatively impose a good behaviour bond for up to two years, or require you to undertake an intervention program, while still allowing you to avoid a conviction.
What are the benefits of a non conviction order?
Being able to remain conviction-free has many benefits – it essentially allows you to move on with your life without the implications of a criminal conviction on your current employment or future career.
It also means that you are highly unlikely to be refused a visa to travel overseas.
Do I ever need to disclose that I received non conviction order?
Since it is not a criminal conviction, in most cases you will not have to disclose that you have received a non conviction order.
The offence will not appear on your criminal record; however it will appear on your court record.
This means that if you appear in court again, the magistrate or judge will be able to see that you have previously received the non conviction order.
But in some circumstances, a non conviction order may have to be declared.
Some professions, such as lawyers, accountants, police officers and teachers, will require the disclosure of all charges where there was a ‘finding of guilt’ even if a conviction was not recorded.
So you will need to answer ‘yes’ if you are asked something like ‘has a finding of guilt ever been made against you by a court?’ or ‘have you ever been charged with a criminal offence?’.
What are my chances of getting a non conviction order?
There is no formula to determine whether or not you will get a non conviction order, as it is up to the discretion of each magistrate or judge to decide.
- Your character, age, health, mental condition, and any previous criminal history;
- How trivial the offence was; and
- Whether the offence was committed under any extenuating circumstances
The court can also consider any other matter it considers to be appropriate.
This may include any character references you gather, or any letter of apology you write to the court, or any counselling or rehabilitation you undertake.
The court is also entitled to consider the effect of a criminal conviction (if any) on your present or future careers prospects.
You may also be looked-at more favourably if you entered an early guilty plea, rather than pleading guilty after several court dates or being found guilty after a defended hearing.
The seriousness of the charges will have an impact on the prospects of achieving a non conviction order.
Minor drug charges such as small drug possession are often dealt with by way of non conviction order, particularly for a first offence.
So, for example, you will have a good chance of getting a non conviction order for one or two ecstacy tablets or a small amount of another type of drug.
If you have already got a non conviction order, or have a criminal record, it will be more difficult to get a second non conviction order, but it is not impossible to achieve.
Apart from choosing whether to plead guilty or not guilty, one of the most important decisions you will make is who you choose to represent you in court.
Many criminal law firms offer a free first appointment where an experienced lawyer can discuss your case, tell you what to expect and point you in the right direction.
A specialist drug defence lawyer with be able to work towards achieving the best result in your case.
They may be able to do this by fighting for the charges to be dropped or thrown out of court on the basis that there is insufficient evidence against you, or because you were search illegally, or because you have a valid legal defence.
Alternatively, a drug defence specialist will know the best way to help you avoid a conviction you wish to plead guilty.