Will my drug charges be finalised in the Magistrates, District or Supreme Court?

If you have been charged with an offence related to drugs in Queensland you will be required to attend the local Magistrates Court in the first instance.  There are some drug charges that can be determined in the Magistrates Court either on a plea of guilty or not guilty.  There are, however, some drug charges that the Magistrates Court does not have power to determine, and the charge/s will need to be committed to the District or Supreme Court for determination of your guilt and finalisation.

The Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld) sets out the relevant law for drug offences in Queensland, including setting out which court has power to determine each charge.  The type and quantity of drugs involved in the offence is relevant to deciding which court will deal with the matter.  For a charge of Possess Dangerous Drugs, it is also relevant whether the prosecution allege you possessed the drugs for a commercial purpose (ie – whether you intended to sell some (or all) of the drugs in your possession).

‘Dangerous drugs’ are classified in two separate schedules under the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987 (Qld) – schedule one and schedule two. Schedule one drugs are considered more serious as they carry a higher maximum penalty.  They include heroin, cocaine, LSD, methylamphetamine, amphetamines and ecstasy. Schedule two drugs include cannabis, morphine and methadone.

matters that can be heard in the magistrates court

All proceedings for drug offences in Queensland start in the Magistrates Court.  Examples of drug offences that can be finalised in this court include:

  • Supply of dangerous drugs (schedule two drugs only where no commerciality is alleged)
  • Producing dangerous drugs (schedule two drugs only, if the amount alleged is less than the amount set out in schedule three)
  • Possessing dangerous drugs (schedules one and two drug, if the amount alleged is less than the amount set out in schedule three)
  • Permitting use of place
  • Possess utensils or thing used in commission of an offence
  • Possess property suspected of being used to commit a drug offence

There are some drug offences where the prosecution is required to elect whether the matter can be finalised in the Magistrates Court or if it will proceed on indictment in the District or Supreme Court.  If the matter cannot be finalised in the Magistrates Court, it will progress through committal proceedings to the District or Supreme Court. 

Matters that must be heard in the district court

Where the maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment or less, and the matter cannot be finalised in the Magistrates Court, it will proceed on indictment in the District Court.  Examples of drug offences that are finalised in the District Court are:

  • Producing dangerous drugs (schedule one and two drugs, where the quantity exceeds schedule three)
  • Possessing dangerous drugs (schedule two drugs where the quantity exceeds schedule three)
  • Trafficking dangerous drugs (schedule two drugs only)

matters that must be finalised in the supreme court

Where the maximum penalty is more than 20 years imprisonment, the matter will proceed on indictment in the Supreme Court.  Examples of offences determined in the Supreme Court are:

  • Trafficking dangerous drugs (schedule one drugs)
  • Possessing dangerous drugs (schedule one drugs where the quantity exceeds schedule three)

This post contains general advice only and is not intended as legal advice.