Types of Charges
Legislation provides for different categories of drug offences, depending on the substance involved, and the quantity. In some cases, the difference between a charge of possession of a prohibited drug, and the far more serious charge of trafficking, may turn on the advice and representation of a solicitor experienced in defending drug charges. In order to prosecute a charge of trafficking successfully, the prosecution must be able to show that the person charged had knowledge of, and control over the drugs in question.
Representation Before and During Trial
A defence lawyer may be able to assist both at the pre-trial stage, and in court, once a matter has gone to trial. Early advice and representation by an experienced lawyer may result in a reduction in charges, through negotiation with the prosecution, or may even result in the dropping of charges, where the defence lawyer demonstrates weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
Our client, with a history of drug addiction, and drug related offending, was charged with trafficking cannabis, and possession of cannabis after police found 428 grams of the drug throughout his property, in varying places and varying quantities. Against the background of prior criminal history, conviction of the charge of trafficking could have resulted in a substantial custodial sentence for the client.
Our client’s instructions were that he had no knowledge of all but 36g of the cannabis, which he admitted to possession of for personal use. Acting for the defendant, Slades and Parsons engaged in frank and professional communication with the prosecution regarding the charges. In negotiations, we were able to convince the prosecution that the charges against our client of trafficking cannabis, and possessing 428g of cannabis would be difficult to prove, because several people occupied the property, and our client denied knowledge of most of the amount. Because of this negotiation, the prosecution withdrew the trafficking cannabis charge, and amended the possession charge to 36g in accordance with our client’s admissions. Due to the reduction to a possession charge for a relatively small amount, to which the defendant pleaded guilty, the outcome for our client was a fine of $500.
In the courtroom, an expert criminal defence lawyer can aid your defence by presenting evidence to show that not all of the necessary elements of the case are provable. In most circumstances, the prosecution will need to prove that the drugs concerned were in your possession. Where there may be doubt as to your knowledge of, or control over the drugs, your solicitor can aid you in presenting this evidence to the court. In the event of a guilty plea, or conviction at trial, a defence lawyer can present information about mitigating circumstances or personal factors around the offending, or can present character witnesses or references with the aim of reducing the severity of the sentence.
Drug Diversion Programs
A lawyer who is experienced in defending drug charges will have knowledge of options such as drug diversion programs, which can avoid the need for a court hearing or sentencing. Eligibility for diversion programs depend on a range of factors, such as the applicant’s personal circumstances, any criminal record, and the reason for the offending. The Magistrate can also consider evidence such as character references, reports from a counsellor, or doctor. An expert criminal defence lawyer can assist you in presenting this information in support of a request to receive a drug diversion plan, rather than having to proceed to a hearing in open court and being sentenced.