On 25 January 2019, the NSW Government implemented legislation enabling police officers to issue on the spot fines for drug possession offences.
What does this mean?
Police officers will have the discretion and power to issue a $400 fine to offenders found with illicit drugs in their possession.
They will not be required to attend court to have the matter finalised. Unless, they do not pay the fine or elect to have the matter finalised in court.
It also means that a criminal conviction will NOT be recorded. Again, as long as you pay the fine and do not elect to have the matter finalised in court.
Will everyone found in possession of drugs receive an on the spot fine?
No. Police officers have discretionary powers in deciding whether to issue an on the spot fine, or a traditional Court Attendance Notice.
What does the legislation say?
Under Schedule 4 of the Criminal Procedure Regulation 2017 (NSW) a penalty notice may be issued:
If prohibited drug is other than cannabis leaf and:
In the case of 3,4-Methylenedioxymethylamphetamine [MDMA]:
In capsule form – does not exceed a small quantity, and
In any other form – is less than a traffickable quantity, or
In any other case [any other prohibited drug] – does not exceed a small quantity.
Currently, under section 10 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985, the offence of possession of prohibited drugs carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment.
What’s the aim?
It has been labelled a ‘harm minimisation’ technique by the NSW Government – aiming to reduce the consumption of illicit drugs at festivals, whilst also trying to make them safer.
Whilst the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, does not believe pill testing is the answer, this new legislation does indicate that the NSW Government is looking at other methods of harm minimisation in the wake of a number of deaths at music festivals in the state.