What should I do if I am caught with illegal drugs?


It is important to understand your legal rights if you’re caught by authorities with illicit drugs like cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, heroin, ecstasy and LSD.

Know your rights on searches 

First off, it pays to know if police were allowed to search you for drugs. Here, all police need is a reasonable suspicion that you’re carrying drugs. They can also search your vehicle and under certain circumstances could even strip search you.

When it comes to a strip search, there are extra rules that police have to follow. These include conducting it away from people who don’t need to be there and having an officer of the same sex do the searching.

Understand drug laws

In NSW there are, broadly speaking, four types of drugs offences. These are drug use, possession, cultivation and manufacture, and trafficking.  There are also federal drug importation offences, which are viewed as among of the most serious of offences.

Additionally, you can’t drive while under the influence of drugs and NSW police are allowed to stop drivers at random and take a saliva swab to test for traces of illegal drugs.

Rules at music festivals

Things are a bit different if you’re caught with drugs at music festivals in NSW.

Regarding cannabis, if NSW police catch you with less than 15 grams of marijuana they can exercise their discretion and issue you with a cannabis caution instead of charging you. This type of caution means you don’t get a criminal record and won’t be issued with a fine.

If it’s not cannabis but another type of illicit drug, police can issue you with an on-the-spot-fine of $400 for possessing a small amount, and you will also escape a criminal conviction.

Your right to silence

If police arrest you for a drug offence, remember that you have a right to remain silent upon being arrested in NSW. You will, however, be required to give your name and address. 

There are some instances related to serious indictable offences where exercising your right to silence may count against you, but the exceptions don’t relate to drug offences. This means that you can presume you have the right to remain silent if you’re caught with drugs.

Consider your plea

One of the big decisions you’ll have to make if you’re charged with a drug offence is whether to plead guilty or fight the charge at court and enter a plea of not guilty.

This is a very important decision and can be a difficult one to make.  Courts like people to plead guilty and such pleas can lead to reduced penalties and a faster court experience.

Get legal assistance

If you’re caught with illicit drugs you will likely benefit from having a criminal lawyer represent to you at the police station and then, if you’re charged, at court.

A lawyer can advise you on your rights, including any possible legal defences you may have, and how best to proceed with your matter.