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The Queensland Police Drug Diversion Program – What’s New and Am I Eligible?

Potts Lawyers > Criminal Law & Offences  > The Queensland Police Drug Diversion Program – What’s New and Am I Eligible?

The Queensland Police Drug Diversion Program – What’s New and Am I Eligible?

Have you been found in possession of a small amount of party drugs? Jungle juice? Steroids? Maybe a bong, grinder or pipe? Were you arrested, or questioned, by a Queensland police officer about the offence?

If so, provided you are eligible, police may have had the obligation to offer you the chance to participate in the police drug diversion program (PDDP).

Possessions of small quantities of recreational drugs, drug-related items, prescription medications and controlled drugs make up the majority of low-level drug offending in Queensland, specifically among young people.

However, since 2023, political and legal attitudes towards the prosecution of these offences have been evolving. New laws in Queensland have expanded the eligibility criteria for Police Drug Diversion Program participants.

In light of these changes, it is important to be aware of whether you could be eligible for police drug diversion – and what we can do to help.


What Is The Police Drug Diversion Program?

In a bid to achieve improved outcomes for offenders, address the underlying causes of drug offending and reduce demand on Queensland courts, the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (the Act) previously established the first police-operated drug diversion program.

This program is intended as an alternative pathway to prosecution, diverting individuals away from the courts and into drug treatment and support services.

If successfully completed, the program removes the need for participants to attend court, and therefore, grapple with the more permanent complications caused by some penalties, like recorded convictions.

Historically, the PDDP was only available to individuals found in possession of small amounts of cannabis, or items used to smoke or consume it.

However, in May 2023, the Queensland Government introduced a variety of other eligible drug offences through the Police Powers and Responsibilities and Other Legislation Amendment Act (No. 2) 2023 (the Amendment Act).

Similarly, the Police Powers and Responsibilities (Minor Drugs Offence) Amendment Regulation 2024 (the Regulation) has clarified the ‘eligible’ quantities for possession of these drugs.


Am I Eligible?

To be eligible to participate in the Police Drug Diversion Program, individuals must:

  • have been arrested for, or questioned by a police officer about, a “minor drugs offence”;
  • during an electronically recorded interview, admitted to committing the offence;
  • have not previously:
  1. been offered the opportunity to participate in a drug diversion program;
  2. committed a related indictable offence (for example, breaking into a house to steal money to buy the drugs in question);
  • been sentenced to a term of imprisonment for supplying, trafficking, or producing dangerous drugs; or
  1. been convicted of an offence involving personal violence (including where the rehabilitation period under the Criminal Law (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act 1986 has expired).

Importantly all aspects of the criteria must be satisfied for an individual to be eligible to participate.


What Is A “Minor Drug Offence”?

Under the Amendment Act, the definition of a “minor drug offence” has been expanded to include:

  • Possessing dangerous drugs named in the Drugs Misuse Act 1986 (like steroids, cocaine, ecstasy, LSD or heroin);
  • Possessing things used for the administration or consumption of dangerous drugs (like bongs, grinders or pipes);
  • Possessing prescribed drugs named in Schedule 4 of the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987 (like benzodiazepines); and
  • Possessing controlled drugs named in Schedule 8 of the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987 (like Vyvanse or Ketamine).


How Much Is Too Much?

Not just any amount of drugs will see you eligible for the Police Drug Diversion Program.

To be able to offer it, your arresting police officer must reasonably believe that the drugs or items were possessed for personal use only.

Similarly, the Act makes it clear that all offences involving the manufacturing, production, supply and/or trafficking in dangerous drugs will be excluded with normal court processes and penalties applying.

To assist, the Regulation has confirmed the quantities of minor drugs that will be eligible, including:

  • 0025 grams of fentanyl;
  • 0 gram of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine;
  • 3 tabs of LSD; and
  • 4 caps of MDMA.

The prescribed quantity for cannabis remains at 50.00 grams or less. There is no prescribed quantity for steroids.


Do Police Have to Offer Me the Police Drug Diversion Program?

The Amendment Act introduces the requirement for police officers to offer any eligible adult an initial ‘drug diversion warning’ for their first minor drug offence.

Alternatively, if the adult has previously been offered the opportunity to participate in a drug diversion program, police officers must now offer them a subsequent drug diversion assessment program.


Help – I Think I Am Ineligible?

The Police Drug Diversion Program is often a favourable alternative to what can be stressful court proceedings. One of its major attractions is that you are never charged with an offence, and therefore, avoid the risk of a conviction and court time altogether.

However, even if you are ineligible to participate in the Police Drug Diversion Program, there is professional support available to you to help you deal with your matter delicately and efficiently.


What Can We Do?

Assessing Your Eligibility

There are many factors that can affect your eligibility for the Police Drug Diversion Program, including whether or not you have made admissions about the offence to police, whether any crimes were committed at the same time (or are related), and your criminal history.

Any time you are putting information forward to police, you risk this information being used against you. It is therefore important that you contact an experienced criminal lawyer who will assess the nature of admissions being made before you speak with police.

Your lawyer may also be able to liaise with police to confirm whether you should have been offered the program based on your eligibility.


Court Order Drug Diversion Programs

Court-ordered drug diversion programs, like the Illicit Drugs Court Diversion Program (CDP) and the Drug & Alcohol Assessment and Referral Program (DAAR), are useful alternatives to the Police Drug Diversion Program.

While the CDP and DAAR still require participants to adhere to strict eligibility criteria, those who participate often achieve similar outcomes to the PDDP.

A common drawback to these programs is that defendants are still required to attend Court and, regardless of their eligibility, may be refused drug diversion by the Sentencing Magistrate.

It is important, then, that your lawyer comes prepared to make arguments in Court as to why you should be referred to drug diversion. They should also come prepared to argue for a favourable outcome at a sentence, if need be.


Positive Outcomes At A Sentence

Rest assured, if you are ineligible for drug diversion or denied the opportunity to participate in it, there is still a lot you can do.

Seeking legal representation from an experienced criminal lawyer and adhering to their advice when preparing for a sentence is a good place to start.

There are many legal avenues your lawyer can take to help you achieve positive outcomes. They may recommend that you participate in certain programs or counselling as evidence of your efforts towards rehabilitation. They may seek documents to be tendered at your sentence in support of these arguments, such as letters from your doctor, counsellor, or people in your life who know you well.

The solicitor can also make persuasive submissions on your behalf in court in mitigation of your penalty. These can include adding important context to your offending, presenting the court with the hard work that you have done and making arguments to avoid certain penalties, like harsh fines, supervisory orders and recorded convictions.


Get Help from Our Experienced Criminal Defence Lawyers

The new Police Drug Diversion Program eligibility criteria will increase the amount of individuals able to partake in the program.

In circumstances where you are not sure of your eligibility, you should seek legal advice on whether or not police had the obligation to offer you the program. In circumstances where you intend to make admissions to police about your drug offence, you should speak to a lawyer first to ensure you are not exposing yourself to further risk.

If you are not eligible for the Police Drug Diversion Program, you may require legal representation to facilitate your being assessed for court-ordered drug diversion or to advocate for you at a sentence.

Alternatively, if there is any risk that you could be charged with producing, manufacturing, supplying or trafficking in dangerous drugs, you should seek immediate legal advice.

At Potts Lawyers, we have a team of experienced criminal defence lawyers who can advise you and liaise with the police regarding your matter.

Enquire today on (07) 3221 4999 for Brisbane, or (07) 5532 3133 for the Gold Coast.

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