NSW Music Festival Police Legal Rights

NSW Police Search Powers at NSW Festivals: Know Your Rights

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If you are in another state or plan to visit another state, please visit other pages. Take a look at our state specific pages. 


An indication from a NSW Police sniffer dog is not sufficient, by itself, to constitute a “reasonable grounds”. If a sniffer dog touches you – this could constitute an assault and may render any subsequent search unlawful.

If police tell you that they’re going to search you? Not sure if it’s lawful? Comply with police directions and tell them:





If you have locked the phone with a passcode, then police cannot look through it unless they have a warrant (see the section below!).

However, this is a tricky area. While we’ve had them for ages, smartphones are still pretty new in terms of legislating around them. Smartphones hold an almost limitless amount of information. Searching one is substantially different from a search of your backpack or wallet. 

Section 30 of LEPRA allows an officer to examine anything in the possession of someone that the law permits them to search. For example, they can look through your bag, wallet or your phone. There isn’t anything explicit in the legislation which says police can not look through your phone at things not related to the grounds for the search.

However, there is this presumption that there needs to be some sort of link between what they have a legal entitlement to access in your phone and the grounds for the original search. Ultimately this really needs clarification by the NSW Government, Police or the Courts.

Police need a warrant in order to force you to disclose your password, PIN or encryption keys to enable a smartphone.

However, it’s unclear whether an officer holding your phone up to your face to unlock it biometrically would satisfy this requirement.

Section 3LA of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) sets out that an officer needs to apply to a magistrate for a order requiring an individual provide them with access to their electronic device if there is suspicion of it holding the evidence of a crime.

In conclusion, if an officer has this order, then you could suffer severe penalties by not complying with it.


What sort of substances (drugs) is it prohibited to possess?

  • Marijuana (cannabis, hashish)
  • LSD
  • ecstasy (XTC, E, MDMA)
  • speed
  • ice (methamphetamine)
  • cocaine
  • heroin (narcotics)

See the full list of prohibited drugs under Schedule 1 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985.

Common Drug Offences

  • Possession
  • Use
  • Making
  • Importing
  • Selling or supplying

The law: s 10 of Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 

Penalty: Up to 2 years prison or fine of $2200, or both.

Prosecution has to prove: that beyond reasonable doubt, the accused had ‘custody’ or ‘control’ of the drug 


Supply can be:

  • holding drugs for your friends;
  • agreeing to give someone drugs;
  • offering to give someone drugs;

The law: s25 of Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985

Penalty: Penalty depends on type and quantity of drug: Less than indictable quantity: max 2 years prison.

Prosecution has to prove: Supplying or knowingly taking part in the supply of prohibited drugs 


If you are found with a “trafficable amount” – you can be charged with supply even if there is no evidence that suggests otherwise

The law: 

  • Section 29 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW) provides that those in possession of a “trafficable quantity” of a drug are automatically deemed to possess that drug for the purposes of supply.
  • threshold for the large commercial quantity of methylamphetamine was halved (from 1 kilogram to 500 grams) by the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Amendment (Methylamphetamine) Regulation 2015


  • max penalty for the offence of supplying prohibited drugs (other than cannabis) is 2,000 penalty units ($220,000) or imprisonment for a term of 15 years, or both

Drug Quantities in NSW

From Schedule 1 of the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 (NSW)

Dealing WITH Police & Security

Police can ask for your name and address if they think you committed an offence or could have information about an offence. You must give them this information!

Yes! If you film police and have concerns about their conduct then feel free to send it to us confidentially and we can review it for you.

Security guards do not have the same powers as police.

However, festivals may require you to give consent to security searching you as a condition of entry and refusing this may allow them to not let you in.

Some case studies where we have represented clients who have been charged at music festivals:

Illegal Strip Searches take place at all-ages music festival. An erroneous drug dog indication means that a youth had to strip naked in front of police.

Read the full unlawful strip search of an underage attendee at all-ages music festival case here.

Hunter Valley music festival patron charged with cocaine possession. A Police drug sniffing dog detected prohibited drugs on our client.

Cocaine possession at Music Festival.

SM was attending the “Listen Out” music festival in Randwick. After a drug sniffer dog indicated drugs on SM at the entrance, SM admitted he was in possession of prohibited drugs secreted in his underwear. SM produced two clear plastic bags containing nine capsules of MDMA. We successfully represented SM, who received a fine for the possession charge and whose supply charge was withdrawn.

Read the Successful outcome for client charged with possession and supply of drugs case study here. 

Police charged CN with possession of two prohibited drugs at the Lost Paradise Festival. We represented CN who entered a plea of guilty for the two matters. With a successful outcome, CN was sentenced to a Community Release Order without conviction for a period of six months.

Read the No conviction recorded for client charged with drug possession at music festival  case study here. 

Police charged SS with possession of a prohibited drug at a music festival. We represented SS who entered a plea of guilty for possession of a drug. SS received the best possible outcome of a 12-month conditional release order, without conviction, to be of good behaviour.

Read the No conviction recorded for client charged with drug possession at music festival case study here. 


A young client was found with a prohibited drug at a music festival. He pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited drug. Our drug specialist lawyers assisted AW in the preparation of his sentencing case including gathering character references. The outcome was a no conviction recorded on the condition that AW enter into a good behaviour bond.

Read the No conviction recorded for drug possession at music festival case study here. 

CSH was found with a small quantity of MDMA whilst attending a music festival. He pleaded guilty to the charge of possession a prohibited drug. We assisted CSH with his sentencing hearing where we made submissions that it was only a small quantity, his early admission and guilty plea. No conviction was recorded on the condition that CSH complete a good behaviour bond.

Read the case study here. 

We can provide you with advice on your legal options including your legal rights, possible defences and penalties.

Your first call with us is free


O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors
p: 02 9261 4281
a: Level 4, 219-223 Castlereagh St,
Sydney NSW 2000

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