In Queensland, drug charges are governed by the Drugs Misuse Act 1986, which outlines various charges related to the possession, supply, production, and trafficking of illegal substances. The Act categorises drugs into different schedules, with penalties varying based on the type of drug, the quantity involved, and the nature of the offence.

Queensland recently introduced a three-strike rule when it comes to the possession of small quantities of illicit substances. 

The Three Strike Rule

In April 2023, the Queensland Government expanded its Police Drug Diversion program to cover all drugs. This now means there is a tiered approach to minor drug possessions: 

  • 1st minor drug-possession offence – a police officer issues a warning, accompanied by a drug warning notice and a police referral to a support service.
  • 2nd and 3rd minor drug-possession offence – a police officer offers the opportunity for the person to participate in a mandatory Drug Diversion Assessment Program.
  • 4th minor drug-possession offence – a police officer issues the offender with a notice to appear in court.

The focus is on treating drug issues as health problems, especially for the youth. This change aims to save police time for serious crimes like trafficking, which now faces a life sentence, up from 25 years. The program is part of a larger $1.645 billion mental health and drug service improvement plan, including a focus on First Nations peoples.

Frameworks of Drug Charges

Type of drug: Classified under schedules in the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987, the type of drug significantly impacts the legal consequences. More on this below. 

Quantity: Larger quantities often lead to more severe charges, such as trafficking, compared to possession.

Possession: Holding illegal drugs for personal use. It’s one of the most common drug offences, with penalties depending on the type and quantity of the drug.

Supply and trafficking: Involves distributing or selling illegal drugs. Trafficking, considered more severe, entails ongoing engagement in the supply of drugs.

Production and manufacturing: The creation or cultivation of illegal drugs, including growing cannabis or manufacturing substances like methamphetamine. 

Personal circumstances: The court also considers the offender’s personal circumstances, including their criminal history, rehabilitation efforts, and the impact of potential sentences on their life.

What Is the Penalty for a Drug Offence in Queensland?

The penalty for a drug offence depends on the type of drug and amount in question and scales from there. 

Possessing Drugs

The act of possessing dangerous drugs is sanctioned under section 9 of the Drugs Misuse Act, with penalties escalating based on the drug’s type and quantity. For less severe cases handled in the Magistrate Court, the maximum penalty is 3 years of imprisonment. However, more severe instances adjudicated in higher courts can lead to much longer imprisonment terms.

For example:

  • Cannabis possession can attract up to 15 years imprisonment for amounts less than 500 grams or 100 plants, and up to 20 years for more than 500 grams or 100 plants.
  • Cocaine possession penalties can escalate to up to 15 years for less than two grams, 20 years for more than two grams, and 25 years for possessing 200 grams or more.

*A drug-dependent person at the time of the offence may be subject to a lesser maximum penalty, reflecting the court’s discretion based on individual circumstances.

Supplying Drugs

Supplying dangerous drugs, as defined under section 6 of the Act, carries a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment when summarily dealt with in the Magistrates Court. This offence requires the prosecution to prove that the accused knowingly supplied a dangerous drug without a lawful excuse. For aggravated cases involving large quantities or supply under aggravated circumstances, such as to a child, the offence is elevated to aggravated supply and handled in the Supreme Court, where penalties can reach from 15 years to life imprisonment.

Trafficking Drugs

Defined under section 5, drug trafficking carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, depending on the trafficked drug. The scale of the commercial operation influences the charge, with smaller operations between individuals more likely resulting in a charge of supplying a dangerous drug rather than trafficking.

Producing Dangerous Drugs

Offences against section 8, involving the production of dangerous drugs, attract penalties ranging between 15 and 25 years of imprisonment, varying with the type and quantity of the drug. Conviction under this provision requires proof that the individual knowingly took part in the drug’s preparation, manufacture, cultivation, packaging, or production without a lawful excuse.

These penalties underscore the severe stance Queensland law takes against drug offences, reflecting the societal and health implications associated with dangerous drugs. Given the complexity of the legal system and the significant impact of these penalties on individuals’ lives, securing experienced legal representation is crucial for anyone facing drug charges.

Sentencing for Drug Offences

Queensland courts have a range of sentencing options for drug offences, from fines and community service to imprisonment. For more serious charges, such as trafficking Schedule 1 drugs, sentences can be as severe as life sentences. However, for possession of small quantities for personal use, penalties will be less severe, and begin with diversion programs aimed at rehabilitation, as mentioned previously.

Implications of a Conviction

Beyond immediate penalties, a drug conviction can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s employment opportunities, travel plans, and social reputation. It underscores the importance of obtaining expert legal representation to navigate the complexities of the legal system and seek the most favourable outcome possible.

What to Do If You’re Charged with Possession of Drugs in Queensland?

Being charged with a drug offence in Queensland is a serious matter with potentially severe consequences. Every day, we assist individuals in consulting their drug offence issues to achieve the most favourable outcomes, aiming to restore their careers, licences, travel visas, and public image promptly. If you’re seeking legal advice or representation in Queensland, Donnelly Law Group is here to help. Contact us today, and let our experienced criminal lawyers in Queensland guide you through your legal challenges with confidence and skill.

In all Australian states, the maximum blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for driving is 0.05. This means that you can have a BAC up to this level and still drive. However, understanding how many standard drinks you can have and still drive is a little more complex. 

So, what is BAC? How is it calculated? How many standard drinks can you have and still be under the limit? Does it apply to everyone? This blog will cover everything you need to know about BAC and standard drinks, ensuring you keep yourself, your loved ones, and those you share the road with safe. 

What is BAC?

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) represents the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream, measured as grams of alcohol per 100ml of blood. So a reading of 0.05 means you have 0.05 grams of alcohol per 100ml of blood, or 0.05%. This is what breathalysers measure (and breathalysers are generally accurate to +/- 10% of the value, so if you blow 0.05 it could be as low as 0.045 or as high as 0.055). 

To roughly estimate BAC, people can use online calculators. These provide an approximation based on inputted data. Bear in mind these are inaccurate and your BAC is likely to be significantly higher or lower than the output of these calculators. They should never be relied on when deciding whether to drive after drinking alcohol or not. 

What is A Standard Drink?

A standard drink is equal to 10 grams of pure alcohol. This measure helps to track alcohol consumption more accurately, regardless of the type of alcohol consumed, aiding in making informed choices about alcohol intake and staying within safe consumption limits. 

Let’s look at some examples. 

Calculating Standard Drinks

In Australia, all alcohol bought from a bottle shop must have the number of standard drinks contained within it written somewhere on the label. But the calculation itself is fairly easy. 

Let’s take a schooner of 4% beer. A schooner is 425ml, or 0.425 litres, and the standard gravity of alcohol (the density of alcohol as compared to water) is 0.789. So, the equation is:

0.425 × 4 × 0.789 = 1.34

We then round this to 1.3. So one schooner of 4% beer is equal to 1.3 standard drinks. 

Now let’s also look at a glass of wine. 

A standard glass of wine in a restaurant is usually about 150ml. If we’re drinking a big aussie Shiraz at 14.5% then the equation would be:

0.150 × 14.5 × 0.789 = 1.71

So one glass of a strong red wine is equal to 1.7 standard drinks.

How Many Standard Drinks to Drive?

A commonly used guideline suggests different rules of thumb for men and women. For men, the QLD government recommends no more than two standard drinks in the first hour and no more than one every hour after that. For women, they recommend no more than one standard drink in the first hour and no more than one every hour after that.

However, please note that this is just a rough estimate; alcohol content varies significantly across beverages, and the actual strength of mixed drinks can differ greatly depending on the mix. On top of this, other factors affect your BAC such as body weight, whether you’ve eaten recently, and more.

Does It Apply to Everyone?

The standard of 0.05 BAC applies to drivers of cars, light trucks, and motorcycle riders across various states and territories, ensuring a consistent benchmark for legal driving capabilities. 

However, specific groups, such as learners and provisional drivers, are required to adhere to a 0.00 BAC limit. These strict measures are in place to combat drink driving and enhance road safety. 

Specialised categories of drivers, including those operating heavy vehicles like trucks, public passenger vehicles like taxis and buses, and drivers carrying dangerous goods must also maintain a 0.00 BAC.

Factors That Affect BAC

Determining the exact number of standard drinks you can consume before driving without exceeding the legal BAC limit is impossible, due to the following factors:

Age

As you age, both liver efficiency and the body’s water content decrease, leading to alcohol lingering longer in the body. This results in a slower alcohol metabolism rate.

Sex 

Research shows that enzyme levels in the body play a critical role in alcohol breakdown. Typically, males have higher enzyme levels than females, which enhances their ability to metabolise alcohol more efficiently. As a result, biological sex at birth significantly impacts alcohol tolerance.

Size and Metabolism

Individuals with a larger body size tend to be able to tolerate larger amounts of alcohol. Additionally, metabolism speed influences alcohol processing. Also, muscle – having more water content than fat – dilutes alcohol in the blood, meaning that those with higher muscle mass can generally tolerate more alcohol.

Food Intake and Empty Stomach 

Consuming alcohol on an empty stomach can lead to quicker absorption into the bloodstream, potentially raising your BAC to higher levels compared to drinking after eating. Food in the stomach slows the absorption of alcohol, moderating its effects.

Medication 

Medications can interfere with how the body absorbs and metabolises alcohol, as both may require liver processing. This competition can slow alcohol breakdown, potentially increasing BAC levels. It’s crucial to consult healthcare professionals when mixing alcohol and medications to prevent serious reactions.

Can You Lower BAC Quickly?

Reducing BAC levels more rapidly isn’t feasible through any quick-fix methods. The liver metabolises alcohol at a consistent rate, approximately one standard drink per hour. Attempts to lower BAC faster, such as drinking coffee or taking cold showers, are ineffective. The only sure way to reduce BAC is time; allowing the body to process and eliminate the alcohol naturally. It’s crucial to plan accordingly, considering this fixed rate, to ensure safety and legality when drinking and potentially driving later.

Seek Legal Advice At Donnelly Law Group

Every day, we assist individuals in consulting their drink driving issues to achieve the most favourable outcomes, aiming to restore their licences and livelihood promptly. Our support extends to a diverse group, including workers concerned about their careers, parents and carers dependent on driving, commercial drivers, and those with or without prior convictions. We understand the broader implications of a criminal record on employment, travel, and insurance. 

If you’re seeking legal advice or representation in Queensland, Donnelly Law Group is here to help. Contact us today, and let our experienced criminal lawyers in Queensland guide you through your legal challenges with confidence and skill.

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