First of all a disclaimer. I am trained as a lawyer after all- we love disclaimers. Legal training aside, I’m not your lawyer so don’t rely on this as legal advice. It’s not meant to be, it’s all about giving you some knowledge and information.
During and after law school I spent way too much time in courts seeing too many young people appearing before magistrates and judges without knowing anything about their legal rights and responsibilities around drug use. Not knowing the law is no excuse in court so know your shit!
My sister girl Kat threw down a challenge to write a similar post to this one from The Festival Lawyer in the US: http://showbams.com/2013/09/25/what-to-do-if-the-police-stop-you-at-a-music-festival/. I love a challenge and the idea is frikin awesome. This is one of many posts to come so here goes.
1- Let’s start with the basics.
In Victoria a ‘drug’ means a drug of dependence under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic) (DPCSA). All of your regular party drugs are considered to be ‘drugs of dependence’ even if you’re just using them recreationally. Self explanatory, moving on.
2- It’s illegal to use drugs in Victoria.
It’s also illegal to have them, grow them (cultivate), sell or exchange them, to distribute them (traffic); or to plan (conspire) do any of these things; (s4(1) (DPCSA). All you need to do is go to a music festival anywhere to know that people will still do this anyway. Just know that if you do any of these things it is an offence.
Isn’t illegal as such, but Lynx body spray really should be. Nevertheless, the police can confiscate anything you’re using to chrome if you’re under 18 or if they think you are going to help someone under 18 to chrome. (Div 2 Part IV, DPCSA)
4- The decision to take drugs is yours.
If you choose to do so always look after yourself and your mates particularly in busy places. Check in with each other and make sure everyone is still doing ok. If they’re not call an ambulance or find a first aid officer if you’re at a festival. The Victorian Ambulance Service WON’T dob you in to the police. They’re there to help you. Use them if you need them, and be honest with them. Tell them what you’ve taken (if you know), how much and when. They’re good people.
5- Some people think that possessing drugs “for personal use” is not illegal.
Not true, both possession and use of drugs is illegal. If you get found with a small stash you may just get a formal warning or a fine, specially if it’s your first time. This is all up to the discretion of the police officer that spoils your day, so play nice with them.
6- Seriously, play nice with the police.
Remain calm and be courteous. If the police stop you, you must give them your name and address. On the flip side you are entitled (and should) ask them their name, their rank and their regular police station; they should also show you some proof they are a police officer. Always be polite, you don’t want them to think you’re an upstart even if you’re just enforcing your rights.
7- Normally the police can’t search you without a warrant
Unless they have a reasonable suspicion that you have drugs, equipment to make or use drugs like pipes or bongs, on you, your car or property. They need to have reasonable suspicion, and they need to tell you this if they do search you. If they find anything on you they have the power to seize and destroy it so you’ll need to give it up. (s82, DPCSA)
8- What the police can and can’t do
I’ll deal with what the police can and can’t do when or if you’re under arrest in my next post but just know this: you can be arrested by anyone without a warrant. Yep, not just the police,but also a bouncer, a train cop, protective service cops, even another citizen can arrest you as long as they actually catch you committing an offence and they truly believe they need to arrest you to protect the public, themselves or to make sure you appear in court. (s 48, Crimes Act 1958 (Vic))
9- If the police ask you to go anywhere…
Ask them first if you are under arrest. If you are under arrest the police usually have to tell you and why- even if it’s just in general terms. They don’t always have to tell you you’re under arrest. I’ll tell you all about this in my next post… suspense!
10- Drunk and drug driving
If they ask you to go to a police station for a drug test this doesn’t mean you are under arrest, and you don’t have to take the test if you don’t want to but refusing to take the test is against the law and you may be charged with an offence.