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Importing Drugs Offences, Penalties and Defences

Importing drugs into Australia is a federal offence.   If you have been caught importing drugs into the country, no matter the quantity you were importing, the matter will be heard by the Supreme Court of Australia and you could be facing anything from 10 years to life imprisonment. 

 Australian Criminal Law Group has the best criminal lawyers in Sydney for drug importation offences. 

Importation cases vary significantly in strength. Our lawyers know how to beat charges based on circumstantial and unreliable evidence. Our criminal lawyers tear into co-accused informants who roll on their friends and associates to save their skin. We attack police experts who interpret conversations as being codes for importations. We challenge visual and voice identifications of people that police claim to be our clients. 

If our clients plead guilty, we get them the most lenient sentences. 

What should I do if charged with importing drugs? 

If you have been charged with drug importation, get in contact with Australian Criminal Lawyers immediately.  This is a very serious, federal offences with harsh penalties for those found guilty.  The sooner we’re on your case, the better the likely outcome for you.   

Call us on (02) 8815 8167, email us at or send us a website enquiry. 

Read on for more information regarding this offence, maximum penalties and possible defences.  

What are the Import – Export Offences in Australia? 

Importing and exporting drugs charges are delt with in the Criminal Code Act 1995, Division 307 – Import-Export Offences, Subdivision A – Importing and Exporting Border Controlled Drugs or Border Controlled Plants. 

Importing and Exporting Offences come under 4 categories depending on the quantitiy of border controlled drugs or plants.   Charges differ for each.  They are as follows; 

  1. Importing and exporting commercial quantities of border controlled drugs or border controlled plants
  2. Importing and exporting marketable quantities of border controlled drugs or border controlled plants
  3. Importing and exporting border controlled drugs or border controlled plants
  4. Importing and exporting border controlled drugs or border controlled plants—no defence relating to lack of commercial intent 

What is deemed as “commercial quantity”, “marketable quantity” or otherwise varies depending on the drug the offence is in relation to.   The below chart outlines the different drug weight categories. 



Marketable Qty 

Commercial Qty 


25,000 grams 

100 kg 


2 grams 

1.5 kg 


2 grams 

0.75 kg 

MDMA (Ecstasy) 

0.5 gram 

0.5 kg 


2 grams 

2 kg 

Papaver bracteatum 




80 kg 


Papaver somniferum 

10 kg 


What is a border controlled drug? 

Schedule 2 of the Criminal Code Regulations 2002 lists all border controlled drugs with the quantity that is deemed commercial quantity and marketable quantity.   This is an extensive list and includes all drugs that would also be considered “illicit” as well as many pharmaceutical drugs.  

You can view the list on the website at 

A summary of the most common or most well known boarder controlled drugs with their and marketable quantities are included in the table above. 

 What is a border controlled plant? 

Section 5E of the Criminal Code Regulations 2002 lists all boarder controlled plants with the quantity  that is deemed commercial quantity and marketable quantity and is copied below.   


Border controlled plant 

Commercial quantity 

Marketable quantity 


Any plant of the genus Cannabis 

250 kg or 1,000 plants 

25 k commercial g or 100 plants 


Any plant of the genus Erythroxylon (also known as Erythroxylum) from which cocaine can be extracted either directly or by chemical transformation 


80 kg 


Any plant of the genus Lophophora 




Any plant of the species Papaver bracteatum 


10 kg 


Any plant of the species Papaver somniferum 


10 kg 


Any plant of the species Piptagenia peregrine 




Any plant of the species Psilocybe 



What are the penalties for importing boarder controlled drugs or border controlled plants? 

The maximum penalties that apply to each type of importation charge are as follows.   

However, there are a number of factors that can be taking into consideration by the judge before sentencing which could reduce the severity of the penalty given.     

Australian Criminal Law Group consistently the best result for their clients charged with drug importation.  This includes getting charges reduced and more lenient sentences.  For those that plead not guilty, we have a solid record of beating importation charges.   

Maximum Penalties for Drug Import Charges 

  • Less than a marketable quantity:  10 years’ imprisonment and/or $220,000 fine  
  • Marketable quantity: 25 years’ imprisonment and/or $550,000 fine
  • Commercial quantity:  Life imprisonment and/or $825,000 fine 

How do I beat an Importing drugs or precursors charge? 

You will be found not guilty of the offence of Importing border-controlled precursors if the police cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt: 

  • You import or export a substance; and 
  • Either or both of the following apply:  
    • You intend to use any of the substance to manufacture a controlled drug;
    • You believe that another person intends to use any of the substance to manufacture a controlled drug. 
  • The substance is a border-controlled precursor; and
  • The weight imported or exported. 

Import includes to bring the substance into Australia and deal with the substance in connection with its importation. An import requires border-controlled drugs and precursors to arrive in Australia from abroad and to be delivered at a point which resulted in the goods remaining in Australia. That may occur when the goods pass through customs or are picked up by an offender (or their agent). Or, when the goods arrived at their intended location (for example a home). 

For the drug importation charges to be upheld, the prosecution must be able to 

  1. Prove all of the essential elements of the drug importation or exportation charge were present.  This includes identifying you as the offender and proving that you had the knowledge required to do so.   
  2. Disprove beyond a reasonable doubt any defences used against your charge.    

Common Defences for importing drugs or precursors charges 

There are a number of defences that can be used to beat charges of drug manufacture.  These include but are not limited to the following;  

  • Duress: You manufactured or took part in the manufacture of drugs because of necessity or duress. 
  • Honest and Reasonable Mistake:  You were unaware that your actions were contributing to the manufacture of prohibited drugs 
  • Lack of Intent:  the prosecution must prove that the accused had the intention to import border controlled drugs or plants and intended to achieve the end result. 
  • Identity of the person importing the drug or plant is uncertain:  The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that they have the right person. 
  • Mental Illness:  See our page on the defence of mental illness for more. 
  • The Pure Weigh is less than the quantity alleged  

To have our clients found not guilty, we tear into co-accused informants who roll on their friends and associates to save their skin. We attack police experts who interpret conversations as being codes for importations. We challenge visual and voice identifications of people that police claim to be our clients. 

We also argue that the police cannot establish our clients knew they were committing the offence of drug importation.  Specifically, that if they did import the drug they did so under a misapprehension (that was reasonable) and are therefore not guilty. 

Why is weight of drug so important in importation cases? 

The weight of the drugs in importation cases is vital, because it determines the offence that you’re charged with and the maximum penalty that you’re exposed to. It also determines the section of the act under which you will be charged. 

What is a conspiracy to import drugs? 

The conspiracy and joint provisions can be used by the police where there is evidence of an agreement to import a border-controlled drug into the country, and that agreement involves a number of individuals who entered into an agreement and intended that an importation would be committed pursuant to that agreement. If the police rely on the conspiracy provisions, it is not necessary for there to be any evidence of an actual importation. 

Pleading guilty to Drug Importation Charges 

If you agree that you have committed the offence and the police are able to prove so, it is best to plead guilty. You will normally receive a discount on your sentence, and it will demonstrate remorse and contrition. Our experienced solicitors can negotiate with prosecutors for you to plead guilty to less serious facts, or even a less serious charge. 

The maximum penalties for the offence of Importing border-controlled precursors depends on the weight and type of precursor. The maximum penalty for importing or exporting a commercial quantity of border-controlled drugs/plants is 25 years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for importing or exporting a marketable quantity of border-controlled drugs/plants is 15 years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for importing or exporting border-controlled drugs/plants of any other weight is seven years imprisonment. These penalties are typically reserved for the worst offenders. Importing offences are extremely serious and if you are charged with one of these offences you should contact our office immediately. 

You can read about all the sentencing options that a court has, including about not having a conviction recorded here. 

Do you need character references for guilty pleas to drug charges? 

We also recommend that you have a number of good character references should you wish to plead guilty to any drug offence.  This often results in much more lenient sentencing.  Visit our Court Procedures and References page for more information on what a good reference looks like and how to write good character references.   


Our criminal lawyers are experts at obtaining the best outcome possible for drug importation. For these offences, a good lawyer can be the difference between a conviction and no criminal record and freedom or jail.  

To discuss your charge of drug importation, call Australian Criminal Law Group at our SydneyParramatta, and Blacktown offices call us on (02) 8815 8167, send us an email to  or make a website inquiry today. 


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