Drug Offences and Legal Repercussions in New South Wales: What You Need to Know


Drug offences constitute a significant portion of matters before the New South Wales criminal courts, with consequences that can alter lives and futures. This article delves into the common drug offences under New South Wales legislation, including possession, trafficking, and manufacturing. We explore the potential penalties, such as fines and imprisonment, and shed light on the possible defences and legal strategies that can be employed in drug-related cases.

Common Drug Offences in New South Wales: Possession, Trafficking, and Manufacturing

Drug offences carry significant implications in New South Wales, ranging from minor to severe criminal charges. Among these, possession, supply, and manufacturing are some of the most common in the State. Understanding these offences, their legal definitions, and the penalties they attract is essential for anyone navigating through a drug offence charge.

Drug Possession

In New South Wales, drug possession is one of the most frequently encountered drug offences. Possession means that you intentionally have an illicit substance in your physical custody or within your control, and no one else can access it.. The severity of penalties for possession depends on the quantity of the drug, with maximum penalties reaching 2 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $2,200 in New South Wales. However, 2024 saw NSW Police given the power to issue on-the-spot fines of $400 in some instances.

Drug Supply

While often intertwined with trafficking, drug supply is defined as the sale or distribution of a drug. It also includes agreeing or offering to supply a drug, even if you do not intend to carry out the act of drug supply. Supply charges include an immediate transaction between the dealer and the buyer, or the ongoing supply of a prohibited drug with penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment and significant fines.

Drug Manufacturing

Manufacturing drugs or cultivating prohibited plants, such as cannabis, is illegal in New South Wales. Penalties vary widely and can include life imprisonment for large commercial quantities. Drug Manufacturing charges focus on the scale of the operation and the substance involved.

Potential Penalties: Fines and Imprisonment

The penalties for drug offences in New South Wales are diverse, ranging from fines to community service and life imprisonment. The determination of penalties considers factors such as the type of drug, the quantity, and the offender’s criminal history.


Fines for drug offences can reach significant sums, and are intended to deter individuals from committing similar offences in the future. The introduction of on-the-spot fines for minor levels of possession are recent and aimed at reducing the load on the courts and number of criminal charges issued.


Imprisonment is a common penalty for more serious drug offences, especially trafficking and manufacturing, with the term of imprisonment varying greatly depending on the severity and type of the charge. 

Legal Defences and Strategies in Drug-Related Cases

Facing drug charges can be daunting, but there are several defences and legal strategies that can potentially mitigate the penalties or even lead to acquittal.

Lack of Knowledge or Possession

One defence is claiming a lack of knowledge about the presence of the drugs, and is applicable in certain possession cases. Temporary possession with the intention of returning the drug to its owner, may also be a defence raised.


Where the defendant argues they were coerced into committing the offence, duress can be argued.


Understanding the nuances of drug offences, penalties, and defences in New South Wales is crucial for anyone facing drug charges. With the right legal advice and strategy, individuals can navigate through their legal challenges with greater awareness and preparedness.If you or someone you know is facing drug charges, reach out to Maguire & McInerney today to discuss your options.