Sniffer dogs at music festivals
As a result of recent deaths blamed on prohibited drugs police are increasing their presence at music festivals across NSW. This means that you are more likely to encounter drug dogs or sniffer dogs at music festivals.
Everyone would like to hope that it will never happen to them. But what if it you were caught with prohibited drugs? What should you do and most importantly what are your rights and what are the legal options available to you if you find yourself facing prosecution for drug offences
Police at music festivals
Police are specifically tasked with attending music festivals for the purpose of detecting festival goers with prohibited drugs. This might include:
- Uniformed police patrols
- Drug detection dogs
- Undercover police operations.
The most common offences that people find themselves charged with at music festivals is for the possession of a prohibited drug. The types of drugs people are caught with can include substances such as cannabis, cocaine or MDMA (ecstasy).
This offence for possession of these substances is found under section 10 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985. The maximum penalty for this offence is $2,200 and/or 2 years imprisonment
Drug Detection Dogs
The controversial method of using sniffer dogs at public events such as music festivals has not escaped its fair share of criticism. The reality is, despite what some community groups see as an infringement of our civil liberties, police have this method available to them and whether we like it or not are at present lawfully entitled to use it. For this reason it is important to know your rights when faced with a police sniffer dog.
In NSW police have the power under section 148 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 to use a drug detection dog without a warrant in relation to persons at, as well as entering or leaving a concert venue such as a music festival.
When using drug detection dogs police must ensure that they take ‘all reasonable precautions’ to prevent the dog touching you and they must keep the dog under control.
If a police drug detection dog stops near you, this means that according to police, they believe you may be in possession of an illegal drug. If this happens police have the power to search you as they reasonably suspect that you may be in possession of prohibited drugs.
It is quite common for police to conduct undercover drug operations at music festivals. This involves an undercover police officer being tasked to buy drugs from unknowing festival-goers.
Before police are allowed to perform undercover duties, they must have the authority to do so. This is known as a ‘controlled operation’ and the rules relating to these types of operations are found under the Law Enforcement (Controlled Operations) Act 1997.
If you sell prohibited drugs to a police officer you will be charged with supplying a prohibited drug under section 25 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985. These types of offences attract heavy penalties including up to 15 years in gaol.
Undercover drug operations are extremely complex and involve a great deal of organisation. They can also involve a great deal of electronic evidence gathering techniques used by police, such as listening devices and telephone intercepts. For this reason it is important to immediately obtain legal advice if charged with an offence of this nature.
What are my rights and obligations when dealing with the police?
Whether you are dealing with police after being detected by a police drug detection dog or during a police undercover operation, it is extremely important to know your rights as well as the do’s and don’ts when dealing with the police.
The way in which you behave when dealing with the police may mean the difference between you walking away with a warning or a criminal charge.
The following are a few tips when dealing with the police:
- Politely and respectfully ask the police the reason for them searching you.
- Do not consent to a search and make your objection to being searched known to police in a polite and respectful way.
- Tell your friends not to interfere with police. They may mean well but more often than not they will make the situation worse for you.
- Do not touch or attempt to pat the police drug detection dog.
- Do not answer any questions asked of you by police – with the exception of providing identification if asked to do so.
- If the police offer you the opportunity to be interviewed politely decline.
- Obtain legal advice ASAP
What should I do if I’ve been charged with a drug offence?
If you or someone you know has been charged with a drug offence, competent and experienced legal representation is essential. In most cases police will commence action against you by handing you a small yellow field court attendance notice. It is important that you do not fill in the written notice of pleading that is often handed out with the court attendance notice.
If you get in touch with us we offer a free 30 minute consultation.