The following is intended to be a short guide for those under investigation or charged with offences relating to the possession or supply of drugs.
Classification of Drugs
Drugs which are subject to control by legislation are classified in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Controlled drugs are classified as ‘Class A’ (eg heroin, cocaine or ecstasy), ‘Class B’ (eg cannabis or amphetamines) or ‘Class C’ (eg diazepam). The Act also makes provision for temporary classification.
The Act creates various offences which relate to controlled drugs including:
What is likely to happen if I am found in possession of controlled drugs?
If you are found in possession of drugs then the police are likely to arrest you and interview you under caution to which see our separate guide. The drugs will be seized and sent for analysis to a laboratory where they will be tested to establish their identity and whether they are controlled drugs in accordance with the above classification. You may be released under investigation whilst this process is undertaken. It can take a number of weeks. The police will then decide in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service whether you should be charged with an offence. If you are caught with a small amount of drugs the police may offer to formally caution you. To be eligible for a caution you need to admit the offence; it is therefore very important that you take legal advice before exploring this option. There are also potential ramifications of being cautioned (which may need to be declared in certain professions or when travelling to certain countries)
What is possession?
Possession as a legal concept in this context is not quite as simple as it sounds. Effectively, you will be deemed to be in possession of drugs if there is evidence that they are in your ‘custody and control’. Importantly, you must have knowledge of the quality of the substance to be deemed to be in ‘possession’ of it. Effectively, this means that it would be no defence if, for example, you thought you were in possession of heroin but, in fact, it was cocaine.
Will I get charged with supply?
Evidence in support of an allegation of being concerned in the supply of drugs, or possessing drugs with intent to supply, can be derived from many factors such as quantity, presence of cash, paraphernalia such as scales and debtor lists, and from text messages. A decision whether to charge for the supply of drugs, as opposed to simple possession, will be based on the facts and evidence in each case.
Most drug offences are “either way” offences. This means that you will be able to elect to be tried in the Crown Court by a jury, rather than in the Magistrates’ Court. Your solicitor will advise you on the pros and cons of each venue. In some cases, the Magistrates will decline jurisdiction because the case is too serious, and there are some offences (e.g. conspiracy offences) that are ‘indictable only’ and can only be tried in the Crown Court. See our separate guides for prosecution and going to court and Crown Court trials.
How are drug offences sentenced?
Convictions for the importation and supply of controlled drugs will usually result in the imposition of custodial sentences. There are sentencing guidelines in which sentencing ranges are determined by the classification of the drug, the category of seriousness and the level of culpability. Your solicitor will be able to advise you on the most likely sentence in the result of a conviction or guilty plea.
Why instruct Brett Wilson LLP?
Our London based team of Criminal defence solicitors is listed in Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500 as a leading firm in the field of criminal defence. Brett Wilson LLP’s criminal defence team is headed up by Nick Brett, who is ranked as a leading individual in both directories. We are frequently instructed by corporates, professionals and high net worth individuals who prioritise the protection of their reputation and require expert help with a police investigation or prosecution. Our drug crime solicitors specialise in providing legal advice & representation for drug offences & have a proven track record defending cases.
How do I Instruct Brett Wilson LLP?
You should contact one of our team to discuss your case and arrange a preliminary consultation. At the consultation we will advise you on the investigation, talk through the relevant practical and legal issues, and set out your options. We will review relevant documentation ahead of the consultation. The consultation will help you understand your position and allow you to make an informed decision about what action to take. We will provide you with details of our fee structure.
Consultations take place in our London offices or by Skype/telephone. We can also travel to you.
To request a consultation please send us an email, complete our online enquiry form or call us on 020 3811 2829. If emailing or using the online form, please provide a short outline of your situation.
Details of the cost of a consultation will be provided following your enquiry.