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If you are found with controlled drugs in your possession, it is crucial to contact a solicitor experienced in this constantly evolving area of law as early on in the proceedings as possible. Your solicitor can then work with you to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome.
The offence of drug possession is committed when someone is in possession (unlawfully) of, or in control of, any controlled substance.
In order for the offence of drug possession to be committed, the person only has to know that they possessed the item. They do not have to know that the item in question was a controlled drug.
With regards to the ‘control’ element of the drug possession offence, the drug could be in another person’s possession, but if the accused was in control of the drugs, they could still be convicted of this offence.
The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 deals with most drug-related offences, including those related to drug possession.
Section 5 of the Act contains the offence of drug possession, as well as possession with intent to supply.
You will be charged for drug possession of the actual drug. Even if you believed the drug in your possession to be a different type of drug, it is the drug you are actually in possession of that matters.
There are various defences to the offence of drug possession (whether or not there is intent to supply).
These are detailed in Section 28 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and include:
The first of these defences is the defence most commonly used.
When deciding whether to prosecute for drug possession, public interest considerations will be taken into account.
Normally, drug possession of a Class A drug, such as cocaine, heroin or LSD, will be prosecuted.
Prosecutions for possession of Class B and Class C drugs are also normally carried out if the drug possession includes more than a “minimal quantity”.
When it comes to whether or not it is in the public interest to prosecute someone for drug possession of a small amount of cannabis (a Class B drug) destined for solely personal use, prosecutors will consider the mitigating and aggravating factors for this case.
Mitigating factors for a small amount of cannabis destined for solely personal use include:
There are also guidelines for the police with regards to drug possession (for personal use) of the Class C drug ‘khat’. For example, unless there are aggravating factors involved, such as anti-social behaviour, the first offence is recommended to merit only a “Khat Warning”. The guidelines state that arrest and charge should only follow the third (and subsequent) offence.
In the UK, there are three main ‘classes’ or ‘types’ of controlled drugs.
Class A drugs include cocaine, LSD, magic mushrooms and heroin.
Class B drugs include cannabis, amphetamines, codeine and synthetic cannabinoids.
Class C drugs include anabolic steroids, khat and benzodiazepines (diazepam).
While each case and circumstances are different, punishments for drug possession will take into account the type of substance and the reason you possess that substance, as well as the quantity of it.
The starting point for the punishment you will receive if you are convicted of drug possession will depend on the class of drug involved (aggravating and mitigating factors will also play a part – see above).
For drug possession of a Class A drug, the maximum sentence is 7 years in prison, if convicted.
Drug possession of a Class B drug carries a maximum of 5 years in prison, if you are found guilty.
For a Class C drug, the maximum sentence is 2 years in prison.
Drug possession with the intent to supply is a more serious offence which can result in longer prison sentences.
Mitigating factors – features which may reduce the severity of your punishment – for drug possession include:
Aggravating factors – features which may increase the severity of your punishment – for drug possession include:
Seeking advice from a solicitor experienced in this area of law can make a real difference to the outcome of your case. Establishing if there are any mitigating circumstances which could considerably reduce your punishment is vital.
Any drug offence, including drug possession, is taken very seriously in UK law. Drug possession, even if only for personal consumption, can still carry severe punishments. Drug possession with intent to supply is an extremely serious offence and, if you are convicted, you could find yourself with a lengthy prison sentence.
If you are being charged for drug possession, it is crucial that you seek expert legal advice from a professional experienced in this area of law as soon as possible.
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