Trafficking in a Controlled Substance: South Australian Offences

By James Cobiac



Trafficking in a controlled substance is an offence against South Australian law. The quantity of the controlled substance determines the seriousness of the charge and the maximum sentence that can be imposed by the Court. In South Australia the concept of a controlled substance is divided into four broad headings: controlled drugs excluding drugs of dependence, drugs of dependence, controlled precursors and controlled plants. Each category contains a number of different controlled substances of which it is an offence to sell, have possession intending to sell, or participate in the sale of the controlled drug.

Controlled drugs that exclude drugs of dependence includes drugs such as Cannabis plant material (such as leaves) and Heroin (amongst a raft of other drugs). Drugs of dependence include cocaine, methamphetamine and opium. Controlled precursors are both substances used to create other controlled substances and drugs that can be the subject of an offence in their own right if trafficked in specified quantities. Controlled plants include particular types of fungi some of which are referred to colloquially as “magic mushrooms” and cannabis plants. These are but brief examples of more popularly recognised drugs that form a brief snapshot of the types of drugs covered under Controlled Substances Act 1984 (SA). There are also a number of lesser known controlled substances covered under the legislation.

The particular trafficking charge to which a particular individual may be subject to depends on the amount of the drug they are accused of trafficking. The amounts are divided into large commercial quantities, commercial quantities and quantities that are considered to be trafficable. For example, a charge of trafficking in a large commercial quantity of methamphetamine requires the amount be at least 0.75kgs in pure form, or 1kg in mixed form. Trafficking in a large commercial quantity of a controlled drug carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, or a fine of $500 000, or both. Trafficking in commercial or trafficable amounts carry similar, yet less harsh, sentencing options.

To successfully prove a charge against a defendant the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant trafficked a controlled drug in a specified quantity. This is accompanied by a number of sub-elements. In order to prove that the drug has been trafficked the Crown must prove the drug was sold by the defendant, or was in the possession of the defendant and that the defendant intended to sell the drug. Here possession means that the drug was within the control of the person and that the person could determine where the drug would be moved, or how it could be dealt with. Each element exists as a part of a factual matrix that must be proved by the Crown in order to secure a conviction. This matrix can quickly become very complex and having a lawyer can help ensure that you are able to fully understand the evidence against you and all of your right and options that you are able to exercise before a court of law.

Drug legislation in South Australia is complex and multi-faceted, so it is important to seek out specific advice from a lawyer in relation to your own circumstances. A lawyer can help you understand the charges that have been laid against you and advise you of any options for defending the charges, or negotiating alternative lesser charges with the Crown. For example, in some circumstance after having analysed all of the evidence that forms the Crown brief, it may be that a lawyer is able to argue that the evidence only supports a lesser alternative charge, or that no charge is supported by the evidence at all.

Culshaw Miller Criminal Lawyers are available 24 hours a day to provide advice or attendance on0418 421 153 or to book an appointment you can contact our offices on (08) 8464 0033. Make an appointment with our team for a free review of your matter today.