The Federal Government has the power to create offences in areas where it has the authority to act. This includes control of the national borders, trade, taxation, social security and customs.
A Commonwealth criminal offence is charged where there is a breach of the law of the Commonwealth, such as the Customs Act or the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth).
The Criminal Code (Cth) governs the general principle of criminal liability for all federal offences. It is not prosecuted under the State laws and the conduct of the prosecution is usually undertaken by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
The sentencing of offenders for commonwealth offences is largely governed by the Crimes Act (Cth). The court is required to consider consistency in sentencing across all the jurisdictions.
Commonwealth Drug offences are often associated with illegal importations of illicit drugs. These may range from more minor offences involving small quantities of a border-controlled substance to larger importations.
There are offences involving “marketable quantities” (maximum penalty 20 years) and “commercial quantities” (maximum penalty life imprisonment). Quantity threshold will vary depending on the type of drug. Often the offence will be an attempt to import or attempt to possess a border-controlled substance as the drug or other substance has been intercepted and substituted by the police.
The Commonwealth also prosecute other drug offences involving precursor chemicals (for example pseudoephedrine) and other border-controlled substances such as steroids.
Other offences may include manufacturing or trafficking in a drug of dependence. These matters are investigated by the Australian Federal Police who work closely with Border Control and other agencies.