Last updated 1 September 2021

The Drug Court

The Drug and Alcohol Court started in Brisbane on 29 January 2018. The Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) now allows Queensland courts to make a drug and alcohol treatment order (a treatment order) for less serious drug offences. The purpose of a treatment order is to facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders by providing a judicially supervised treatment regime aimed at reducing substance abuse, associated criminal activity and health risks and integrating offenders into the community.

A treatment order involves a custodial part and a treatment part. The treatment part requires the court to sentence the offender to imprisonment and then suspend the sentence for an operational period of between two to five years. During this time, the offender must not commit an offence. If the offender does commit an offence during the operational period, the court may make a range of orders including revoking the treatment order—so that the offender has to serve the whole or part of the sentence of imprisonment—or extending the operational period of the treatment order. The rehabilitation part requires the offender to comply with a treatment program and reporting, visitation, and other orders similar to a probation order. The treatment program may include participation in medical, psychiatric or psychological treatment, residential detoxification programs, wearing a drug and alcohol detection device and participation in counselling, educational or employment programs. The Drug and Alcohol Court closely supervises treatment orders through regular court dates. The Brisbane Drug and Alcohol Court will be reviewed in 2023, after which time expansion of the service to regional areas may be considered.

The Magistrates Court

Legal advice to determine whether the matter can be dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court should be obtained by a person who is charged with a drug offence. It is preferable to have the matter dealt with by the Magistrates Court rather than the District or Supreme Court because, in the latter courts, the risk of custody is greater.

The following offences (or attempts to commit such offences) in the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (Qld) (Drugs Misuse Act) can be dealt with summarily in the Magistrates Court if the person, on conviction of the offence, is not liable to more than 15 years imprisonment (s 13 Drugs Misuse Act):

  • supplying dangerous drugs (s 6)
  • receiving or possessing property obtained from trafficking or supplying (in certain circumstances) (s 7)
  • producing dangerous drugs (s 8)
  • possessing dangerous drugs (s 9)
  • possessing, supplying or producing relevant substances or things (ss 9A–9C)
  • possessing things (s 10(1))
  • permitting use of place (s 11)
  • being party to offences committed outside Queensland (s 12).

In addition, a person charged with possessing a dangerous drug, who is liable on conviction to more than 15 years imprisonment, may still have the charge dealt with in the Magistrates Court if the prosecution does not allege that the possession of the drug was for a commercial purpose (s 14 Drugs Misuse Act).

Persons prosecuted summarily under these offence provisions are liable, on conviction, to not more than three years imprisonment (ss 13(4), 14(3) Drugs Misuse Act). Whether or not indictable charges are dealt with summarily is at the election of the prosecution (s 118(2) Drugs Misuse Act). A magistrate may decide not to try a charge (s 118(4) Drugs Misuse Act) if the magistrate considers that the charge is too serious and may require a sentence of longer than three years.

Trafficking offences can only be dealt with in the District or Supreme courts.