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NCJ Number: 66430 Find in a Library
Title: DRUG OFFENSES - CRIMINAL JUSTICE?
Journal: ORACLE  Dated:(1978)  Pages:8-15
Author(s): J WILLIS
Corporate Author: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Canada
Date Published: 1978
Page Count: 8
Sponsoring Agency: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V6, Canada
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Canada
Annotation: LAWS GOVERNING DRUG OFFENSES IN VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA, ARE ANALYZED FOR AREAS WHERE THEY FAIL TO CONFORM TO STANDARD PRINCIPLES OF CRIMINAL LAW.
Abstract: LAWS WHICH IMPOSE SEVERE PENALTIES ON CERTAIN OFFENSES SHOULD FOLLOW BASIC PRINCIPLES: THE OFFENSE MUST BE CLEARLY DEFINED AND CONTAIN THE REQUIREMENT OF MENS REA, THE CROWN MUST PROVE THE CHARGE BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, AND THE COURT SHOULD INTERPRET ANY DOUBT OR AMBIGUITY IN A MANNER MOST FAVORABLE TO THE ACCUSED. SINCE VICTORIA'S POISONS ACT AND THE COMMONWEALTH CUSTOMS ACT IMPOSE SEVERE MAXIMUM PENALTIES FOR DRUG OFFENSES, THEY SHOULD BE EXAMINED IN LIGHT OF THESE STANDARDS. THE CUSTOMS ACT FIRST CREATES A BASIC OFFENSE OF POSSESSION OF ANY NARCOTICS. AFTER THE DEFENDANT HAS BEEN CONVICTED, THE JUDGE HAS THE AUTHORITY TO DECIDE IF THE AMOUNT OF DRUGS INVOLVED CONSTITUTE A TRAFFICABLE QUANTITY. THE MEANINGS OF 'POSSESSION' AND 'WITHOUT REASONABLE EXCUSE' HAVE BEEN INTERPRETED SO THAT THE COURT DOES NOT HAVE TO PROVE MENS REA AND THE ONUS OF PROOF IS ON THE DEFENDANT. THE DISCRETION GIVEN TO THE JUDGE TO DECIDE TRAFFICKING ISSUES HAS BEEN CALLED UNCONSTITUTIONAL, BUT IN ANY EVENT IT AGAIN PLACES THE BURDEN OF PROOF ON THE DEFENDANT. THE POISONS ACT PROHIBITS TRAFFICKING IN ANY QUANTITY OF DRUG OF ADDICTION AND HAS BEEN INTERPRETED BY COURTS TO ENCOMPASS SMALL AMOUNTS OF DRUGS PASSED AMONG FRIENDS AS WELL AS LARGE COMMERCIAL DEALINGS. UNDER THE WORDING OF THE POISONS ACT, THE CROWN SIMPLY NEEDS TO PROVE THAT THE DRUG WAS ON THE PREMISES OCCUPIED BY THE DEFENDANT, AND THE DEFENDANT MUST THEN PROVE THAT HE HAD NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE SITUATION. BECAUSE OF THE UNCLEAR DEFINITIONS OF POSSESSION AND TRAFFICKING, THE DEFENDANT IS AGAIN AT A DISADVANTAGE. THE EMOTIONAL DEBATE OVER DRUG USE HAS BROUGHT FORTH EXTREMIST VIEWS THAT RANGE FROM DECRIMINALIZATION TO DEMANDS FOR SEVERE PENALTIES. IN THIS ATMOSPHERE IT IS CRITICAL THAT DRUG OFFENSE LAWS BE REVISED TO CONFORM WITH FUNDAMENTAL TENETS OF CRIMINAL LAW. NOTES ARE SUPPLIED. (MJM)
Index Term(s): Australia; Burden of proof; Criminal intent; Drug law offenses; Drug laws; Legal doctrines; Rights of the accused
To cite this abstract, use the following link:
http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=66430

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