In this case study, our client had two separate police briefs heard together as a consolidated plea of guilty. The first brief alleged offences of Possess Drug of Dependence, and Commit Indictable Offence While on Bail, whereas the second brief alleged Drive whilst disqualified.
Both cases proceeded as a consolidated plea of guilty.
Heidelberg Magistrates' Court
Possess drug of dependence (cannabis)
Commit indictable offence while on bail
Drive whilst license suspended
The offending occurred in August and December 2020 respectively.
In August 2020 our client was intercepted by police following a registration check which indicated that his driver's license was suspended on account of the accumulation of demerit points. He told the police that he was unaware that his license was suspended but ultimately instructed our office not to run a reasonable and honest mistake argument on account of the strength of the evidence in the prosecution brief, particularly the s. 84 certificate which outlined the notices sent to our client and his response.
Four months later, and following complaints made to police alleging suspicious behaviour our client was interviewed whilst he was sitting in his parked car at a location in Kingsbury. As a result of searches undertaken of his vehicle, he was subsequently charged with possessing a drug of dependence, namely cannabis (small quantity). His phone was also taken but was ultimately returned after the case finished as there was no evidence our client had engaged in drug trafficking.
Other drug paraphernalia was seized but was not indicative of drug trafficking.
At the time of the offence, our client was also on bail for other matters, however, these offences were ultimately withdrawn.
The offence of Possess drug of dependence is an indictable offence and prosecuted under section 73 of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic). Despite the offence being indicatable, where a quantity amounts to a small quantity, a maximum penalty of 5 penalty units apply. A more severe penalty applies under s. 73 to drugs other than cannabis, or where the quantity of cannabis is more than a small quantity, or where on the balance of probabilities the possession of cannabis was in connection with trafficking.
The offence of Drive whilst license suspended is a summary offence and is prosecuted under section 30 of the Road Safety Act 1986 (Vic).
The maximum penalty for a first offence under s. 30 is 240 penalty units or 2 years imprisonment. By dint of section 28, the Court also has the power to order license suspension for this offence.
How the case proceeded at Court
Careful and thorough instructions were obtained from our client about the circumstances of the offence and personal background.
Both cases were consolidated, and submissions were made to the Court for a lenient penalty.
The Court's attention was drawn to the fact that our client had no priors for drug offending, although he did have a relevant prior for Drive whilst license suspended.
It is also important to note that an application for diversion in respect to the drug offence was sought but refused by police.
An important factor, in this case, was that there had been no subsequent offending since December 2020, and the matter was finalised 12 months later (on account of various delays associated with the pandemic).
The presiding Magistrate accepted that our client had no relevant criminal priors and modest traffic history.
Because of our client's remorse and plea of guilty, our client received a without conviction outcome for each offence:
Possess drug of dependence: without conviction, charge proven and dismissed (section 76 of the Sentencing Act 1991 (Vic).
Commit indictable offence on bail & Drive whilst license suspended: placed on an adjourned undertaking to be of good behaviour for 6 months.
Importantly, the Court did not impose a period of license suspension.