Penalty notices for Drug Possession charges

As at 25 January 2019, NSW Police now have the discretion to issue a penalty notice to those found to be in possession of a prohibited drug.

These changes have been introduced following an increasing number of drug related deaths at music festivals, causing the NSW government to consider a number of new measures for recreational drug users and dealers.

When can you receive a penalty notice for Drug Possession?

Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Regulation 2017 now allow for a $400 penalty notice to be issued for the possession of prohibited drugs in the following circumstances:

  • If you are in possession of a small quantity of MDMA in capsule form.
  • If you have less than a traffickable quantity of MDMA in any other form.
  • If you are in possession of a small quantity of any other prohibited drug other than cannabis leaf.

Issuing a penalty notice for the above offences is a discretionary decision at the hands of the police. Police can still decide to issue a Court Attendance Notice requiring you to have your matter dealt with at Court.

Maximum drug weights for common drugs seen at festivals eligible for penalty notices are outlined below:

What consequences will these new laws have?

Previously, the Cannabis Cautioning Scheme was the only way to avoid facing court if you were found in possession of prohibited drugs. The Scheme was designed to give police discretion to issue a caution for those found with minor amounts of cannabis.

On the spot fines will almost certainly ease the burden on our Local Courts, however, fronting up to Court was arguably a deterrent effect for festivalgoers. There is concern that these changes may therefore increase drug use and drug related deaths at festivals due to people knowing that the consequence for possession may now be a $400 penalty notice and not a criminal charge.

What to do if you get issued with a penalty notice? 

If you find yourself in this scenario you can either accept the infringement and pay the penalty amount, or elect to have it dealt with at Court. Electing to have a penalty notice heard at Court will mean that you risk receiving a conviction. Give us a call to chat about your options. Similarly, if you are struggling with your drug use, give us a call and we can point you in the right direction.