I always thought my friends and I were fairly informed about our rights around things like searching and sniffer dogs when out partying but then I read some more on Fair Play and I realised a lot of our opinions were severely misguided. The Fair Play website has loads of detailed information about our rights at LGBTIQ events. Below I’ve listed some common assumptions around the law, drugs and our rights. If you’re not sure about your rights read on and avoid a hairy situation with the police this Mardi Gras.
- “It’s not supply if I’m selling pills at cost price!”
Oh, sweetie, no. As much as you think the police might prescribe to capitalist ideals, frankly they don’t really care if you made $5 off the pill you gave that stranger, $50, or you lost money. You gave it to someone – you supplied it! Supply includes selling or distribution, agreeing to sell or distribute, offering to sell or distribute, having in your possession for sale or distribution, or organising any of this. You could even be done for supply if you’re caught passing a pill to a mate, profit or not.
- “It’s not a big deal if I’m only holding my own drugs”
While you might not get done for supply, possession really isn’t all that great, either.
Fair Play has a handy list of what counts as quantities of possession or supply. Even carrying a small amount of drugs can be enough to charge you with possession, which carries a maximum fine of $2200, and/or 2 years imprisonment. So there is no safe way to carry illicit substances.
But that doesn’t mean you should take everything at once if you spot a police officer. That can have really dangerous health consequences.
- “I can refuse to be searched or refuse to give the cops my identity”
This one’s quite tricky. Have a read on Fair Play for detailed information about when you have to give the cops your identity, and when you can refuse, and what happens if they’re searching you.
Basically, there are times when you can refuse to give a cop your name and address, but it’s not really a good idea. Providing this information demonstrates that you’re cooperative, and that’s a good way to diffuse the situation. The best way to avoid things escalating is to remain polite, and calm.
- “The police can’t search my phone”
I’m not 100% sure why we all think this? Maybe it just seems like too much of an invasion of privacy to be legit. But, they can. So, be careful. The texts to your mates about “treats” aren’t subtle… Like, at all! If you’ve heard of a slang for a drug, chances are the cops have too. C’mon, we’re adults, who still brings lollipops or donuts to parties?! Everyone knows what a treat (or a favour, or a biscuit, or a bag, you get it) really means and that your friends ‘Molly and Charlie’ aren’t actually people! If the texts on your phone suggest you’ve been doling out the ‘treats’ to your mates that could be supply.
Police can take your phone without arresting you after they’ve conducted a lawful search on you, and regardless of the outcome of that search. So, if a dog sits next to you, and the cops find nothing on you, they can still look at your phone if they have reasonable grounds your phone might be evidence of an offence. So those texts could be incriminating even without the presence of a pill.
- “I can mask the scent of drugs with coffee, or tobacco”
Nup, sorry. If you’re not familiar with dogs (the best animals in the world) then firstly, who are you?! and secondly, you have been woefully mislead about the incredible talents of their cute little wet noses.
Dogs have a mean sense of smell. There have been incidences in recent years where festival goers have attempted to mask the smell of drugs with coffee beans, to no avail. Inspector Rex found their stash anyway.
We do know that sniffer dogs may return a false positive (that is a dog might indicate that you have something on you when really you don’t) and while this is pretty messed up, if a dog has sat down next to you, now is definitely not the time to argue the ineffectiveness of sniffer dogs. Save that debate for a protest one day, and instead, be as cooperative as possible. Again, we don’t want anything to escalate; avoiding hostile situations is the key to preventing nasty run-ins with the police, and making yourself look good should anything go sour. Play nice in order to play safe!
If you need any more information about what the cops can or can’t do this Mardi Gras, check out the Fair Play website.