This article was written by Andrew Fraser - Senior Associate - Canberra

Andrew works in the areas of criminal law and traffic law, providing practical advice in all of his clients’ matters. Andrew has, over many years, developed positive working relationships with prosecutors, magistrates and judges. His no-nonsense approach means he has a reputation for putting forward the best case possible for clients. Andrew has won many matters for his clients, including...

Possession of Controlled Precursors


It is an offence in the ACT to possess a controlled precursor to a drug. The maximum penalty for possessing a controlled precursor varies from seven to 25 years’ imprisonment, depending on the quantity. A precursor is an ingredient or substance that can be used along with other ingredients or substances to make an illegal drug. Precursors include things such as chemicals, plants, fungi or other natural organisms.

Legislation

In the ACT it is an offence according to Section 612 of the Criminal Code to possess a large commercial quantity of a controlled precursor—

  • with the intention of using any of it to manufacture a controlled drug; and
  • with the intention of selling any of the manufactured drug or believing that someone else intends to sell any of the manufactured drug.

The maximum penalty is 2,500 penalty units and/or 25 years imprisonment.

If a commercial quantity is involved, the maximum penalty is 1,500 penalty units and/or 15 years imprisonment.

In non-commercial cases, the maximum penalty is 700 penalty units and/or imprisonment for 7 years.

It is presumed that a person who possessed a controlled precursor with the intention of using any of it to manufacture a controlled drug, intended or believed that the drug would be sold, unless that person proves otherwise.

What actions might constitute possession of precursor?

Examples of acts that could give rise to a charge include:

  • having 10 boxes of pseudoephedrine in your car;
  • being found with a jug which contains benzaldehyde (a chemical used to make methamphetamine) in your garage;
  • having several small canisters of methylamine (a gas used to make methamphetamine) in your backpack;
  • storing multiple chemicals and plants.

What the police must prove

To convict a person of possessing a precursor, the police must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • that they were in possession of a substance;
  • that the substance was a precursor to a prohibited drug; and
  • that they were aware you were in possession of the substance.

To convict  a person of manufacturing a Precursor, the police must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they:

  • intended to manufacturing a controlled drug; AND
  • intended selling any of the manufactured drug or believing that someone else intended to sell any of the manufactured drug; OR
  • intended to sell any of it to someone else; AND
  • believed that the other person intended to use it to manufacture a controlled drug.

Possible defences

A person charged with this offence may argue in their defence that:

  • to argue that they were not in possession of the substance;
  • to argue that the substance is not a precursor to a prohibited drug;
  • to argue that they were not aware they were in possession of the substance;
  • to argue that they had the substance for a lawful activity or that they otherwise had a reasonable excuse for having it; or
  • to argue that they did not manufacture or sell the precursor;

Which court will hear your matter?

The more serious of the Precursor charges – those with maximum penalties of more than 10 years’ imprisonment – are strictly indictable and must be decided in the ACT Supreme Court. The seven-year offences can be dealt with in the ACT Magistrates Court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

WHERE TO NEXT?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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