Know your rights: Cops, drugs and dogs in NSW

NSW police frequently bring sniffer dogs to pubs, music events and festivals to discourage attendees who may be carrying or consuming illicit drugs
Know your rights: cops, drugs and dogs in NSW

At Dowson Turco Lawyers, we recognise how integral it is for the queer community to have opportunities to dance, celebrate and come together, not just during Mardi Gras season but throughout the year as well. We also recognise that some people may, despite the risks, be engaging in illicit drugs while attending parties and events.  

As an Out Loud and Proud® LGBTQ+ law firm, we want to share some important legal information about dealing with police while partying. 

    Do not panic

    Do not panic and consume all your drugs in one go if you see sniffer dogs. It’s not worth risking your life to avoid a potential possession charge or fine.   

    Be polite

    It’s best not to be rude to police because this can make the experience even worse. If police stop you, ask them why you have been stopped. If police ask you if you have drugs on you, you have the right to be silent. But if you are silent and police believe (on reasonable grounds) that you do, in fact, have drugs on you, they will subject you to a search. 

          Be aware of the prescribed quantities of drugs in NSW

          In NSW, the drug laws prescribe what is deemed to be a small, traffickable, indictable and commercial quantity of drugs.  

          For example, less than 1g of speed, 10g of GHB, 1g of cocaine, 2.5g of ketamine, and 0.25g of MDMA/ecstasy all constitute a “small quantity” and therefore can attract fines rather than court attendance notices (and criminal charges for possession). 

          But quantities larger than this can also attract supply charges because police can deem that a person is engaged in drug supply, simply because police have found more than a small quantity of drugs on a person. 

          If drugs are found on you, ask for a fine

          In NSW, police have the discretion to give criminal infringement notices (not court attendance notices) to people found with a small quantity of drugs. You should ask police to issue you with a fine if you are found to be in possession of illicit drugs.  

          NSW police frequently bring sniffer dogs to pubs, music events and festivals to discourage attendees who may be carrying or consuming illicit drugs

            Sniffer dogs themselves do not constitute reasonable grounds to stop and search

            If a sniffer dog sits next to you to indicate that it has detected drugs, police will say that this is a basis to stop and search you. But this alone does not satisfy the criteria for a search; they need more than just the dog’s indication to form a reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of something illegal.  

            You do not need to consent to a search

            Even if police tell you they are going to search you, it is important that you say that you do not consent to the search. However, you should not resist the search, because this can lead to physical restraints and possibly charges relating to resisting arrest.  

              Know your rights in the event of a strip search

              If police ask you to remove any of your clothing besides outer clothing while conducting a search, it constitutes a strip search. You have the right to privacy and dignity during a strip search. Police should not touch you during a strip search. The search should not be conducted in view of anyone other than the police officer(s) conducting the search, and it should be conducted by an officer of the same sex as the person being searched.  

                Only give police your identification information

                If you are found to be carrying drugs during a search, you are only required to give police your name and address. You are not required to answer any other questions they may ask. Be sure to seek legal advice before speaking with them further.  

                Cops in riot gear

                If you need legal advice on drug possession charges or any other criminal matters, Dowson Turco Lawyers has experienced and dedicated criminal lawyers ready to support you. Don’t hesitate to contact us at 02 8000 7300 or fill out an enquiry form on our website.  

                Contact us

                Dowson Turco Lawyers is Australia’s only Out Loud and Proud® LGBTQA+ law firm, servicing all communities. Our criminal lawyers have decades of experience working on simple and very complex matters. They will help you navigate the legal system with empathy and support. Get in touch by emailing us at, visiting our Facebook page or connecting with us on LinkedIn. You can also call us on 02 8000 7300.