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Drugs

This Sydney Law Firm Targets Drug Users on Facebook

If you're between 18 to 30 and like a few music-related Facebook pages, you may have seen an ad saying "Busted with possession or supply of drugs at Field Day? Call Sydney's best drug lawyers!"
January 13, 2015, 11:00pm

Image via LY Lawyers

If you're between 18 to 30 and like a few music-related Facebook pages, Facebook's advertising algorithm might have delivered you an ad from Sydney law firm, LY Lawyers. Showing a hand chopping up lines of a white powdery substance, one ad featured the line, "Busted with possession or supply of drugs at Field Day? Call Sydney's best drug lawyers!"

What's interesting about this, apart from its nudge/wink tone, is that it assumes a certain behaviour based on some seemingly arbitrary patterns of internet use. This isn't new for more general products and services like clothing or insurance, but it is for drugs.

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Also notable is their depiction of drug users, not as victims or perpetrators, but rather as normal, functioning individuals, as illustrated in this radio spot: "Harry, Eccy, Charlie, Weed, Blow—if you've been caught with these speak to LY Lawyers".

But is all this a progressive shift in the way drugs are discussed, or simply a matter of a service provider knowing its market? We talked to the firm's principal lawyer Adam Ly to find out.

VICE: Your Facebook ad is pretty unique for a law firm.
Adam Ly: It's bold isn't it? It complies with all the advertising guidelines; we don't go beyond any ethical boundaries that we're tied to.

The demographics that we target are 18 to 30, professional, festivalgoers, first offenders. Most of our word of mouth clientele are perhaps more deeply entrenched in the drug culture. Most of our social media centres on helping out young first offenders, who are young professionals and university students who get busted.

Most of which would be a possession offence?
And supply. And a lot of it is ecstasy, cocaine, probably methamphetamines third. A lot of our social presence is with the younger demographic.

I guess if you're providing a service you should target it directly to the people who are going to need it.
Exactly. And we're doing a good service, in my view it's an admirable service. People make mistakes in life and they deserve good representation. A lot of people don't see it that way though, they see it as drug culture and bad people.

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We're talking about the young people experimenting side of drugs, but there's also the trafficking and organised crime side. You've represent those people on some cases too. That's a very different message. What's the general public's response when you tell them what you do?
They don't like us. The general population despise us. As you've seen on Facebook, we do a lot of social media and we're prominent on Facebook, we get heaps of hate mail through Facebook messages and posts. We put up a post and find that we have to monitor the comments a lot. You know "scumbag criminal lawyers" and stuff like that. But that's alright, it's part of the job.

Okay, so what should people know about getting caught with drugs? Are there common mistakes that people make?
Everybody in this country, or any free society, should know the fundamental right to silence. Don't answer any questions if you don't want to. In the overwhelming majority of cases, probably nine times out of ten, it's in their best interest to remain silent and then speak to a lawyer. Because on the spot you can tell lies thinking you're trying to protect yourself and it comes back and can be an aggravating factor when you end up in court. Lying to a Police officer is not looked upon favourably. Another example is that you could be admitting to other offences, which the police have absolutely no evidence or no reason to charge you for.

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Say someone gets busted with pills at a festival, what's the best-case scenario for how that ends?
It depends on how many pills they have, they could be charged with just possession.

Where's the line between possession and supply?
0.75 grams, which is about four pills. But the police have the discretion not to charge, it's called "deemed supply", the law says that if you have more than the trafficable quantity of a particular drug in your possession than you are deemed to be supplying it. The logic in that is you have too much in your possession for personal use. A lot of the time now, kids are taking five, six, or seven pills in one day. So a lot of the time the police exercise that discretion and it's just possession. Seventy-seven percent of first offenders charged with possession of the prohibited drug ecstasy are not convicted in New South Wales.

So that doesn't go on their record or anything. You just get a talking-to in court?
Yep. You get a good lawyer, they'll know those statistics and raise those statistics and it's a convincing factor for any magistrate.

What about the worst case scenario?
The worst case scenario is that you're charged with supply. If you've got too many pills on you they say, "well you must have had these in your possession for supply". Technically if you have more than four pills on you, you get charged as a drug dealer.

And then you're looking at jail time?
If it's more than, I'd say, one hundred pills you're looking at possible jail time. Anything under that, for a first offender, you get prevention, community service, suspended sentence, strict supervision, etc. And it does get recorded as a conviction next to your name. We do so many of them that it's not funny.

Follow Mitch on Twitter: @mitchmaxxparker