There seems to be an ever growing number of young people in our community being charged with the offence of trafficking in drugs.  The most concerning thing from a lawyer’s perspective about the trend is that most young defendants do not consider their offending behaviour to be “trafficking” and are often shocked when they find themselves facing such a serious charge.

What is “trafficking”? Surely it involves truckloads of money, huge quantities of drugs, weapons and the Mexican Cartel?  Whilst trafficking can involve that level of offending it also encapsulates a much lower level of trade in drugs.

The offence of “trafficking” is set out in section 5 of the Drugs Misuse Act.   The offence is as follows: “A person who carries on the business of unlawfully trafficking in a dangerous drug is guilty of a crime.”

It involves ‘trading in’ or ‘dealing with’ drugs.  If a person provides a quantity of drug to another person for some level of consideration (usually money), they are trafficking, whatever the point in the chain of distribution.

Only one sale is technically required for an offence of trafficking but in most cases there is some repetition of the selling of drugs over a period of time.

It must be shown that the person “trafficking” had knowingly engaged in the movement of the drug from its source to the person who uses the drug in some sort of commercial operation.

The relevant consideration in most cases is whether the defendants activities amounted to “carrying on the business” of trafficking in whatever the drug might be, for example, cannabis, ecstasy, heroin and so on.

Think about a business and what is involved in the running of that business.  It usually involves a number of activities all undertaken by various employees.  In our modern age the running of a business can occur by text message, email, facebook, telephone, in person and so on.  Below are some examples of text message chat behaviour which may be considered consistent with carrying on the business of selling drugs:

  • Advertising                              “I can mow your grass for 50”
  • Promoting                               “Should b able to help you out later if ur keen”
  • Setting up lines of supply        “I need more can I come see you Monday?”
  • Negotiating prices                   “100 or 200?”
  • Organising terms of supply     “I’ll need it on a tick cause I’m broke”
  • Receiving orders                     “You got any green”
  • Arranging supply                     “Yeah man, come over this arvo”

In terms of penalty there are numerous considerations as to what outcome you could expect in Court if you are convicted of trafficking.  Ultimately the maximum penalty is 25 years imprisonment for trafficking in a Schedule 1 drug and 20 years imprisonment for trafficking in a Schedule 2 drug.

There have recently been amendments to the legislation which call for defendants sentenced to a period of imprisonment to now be required to serve 80% of their period of imprisonment in prison before being eligible for parole.

See our Blog “Tragedy Looming” for more information on those laws.