If charged with an offence, 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:
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 methamphetamine under Section 24 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 2001 (Tas) could incur the penalties of a fine up to 50 penalty units 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 (2019 to 2020) 1 penalty unit = $110 (NSW), $133.45 (Qld), $160 (ACT), $165.22 (Vic), $155 (NT), $168 (Tas), $210 (Cth).
Legal penalties for drug offences relating to methamphetamine are different across Australian jurisdictions.
Penalties also vary by the type of offence (i.e. possession vs. supply) . The maximum penalties may also depend on whether the prosecution charges through minor (summary) or major (indictable) proceedings. See glossary for definitions.
The two most common drug offences are 'possession' and ‘supply or trafficking’ offences. So what do these offences mean?
Possession 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 supply 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 'dealing').
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.