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Drug Smuggling Solicitors

Being arrested for a drug smuggling offence can be an extremely stressful experience. If you are convicted, your life could change forever.

We would always advise that anyone finding themselves accused of drug smuggling contact a solicitor experienced in this area of law as a matter of urgency. Having legal representation experienced in drug smuggling law on your side, to ensure that you are treated fairly, can make a real difference to the outcome of your case. Drug smuggling is one of the most complex areas of criminal law, involving different countries and jurisdictions, which is why seeking legal advice from an expert with experience managing cases of this nature, is key.

What is the legal definition of drug smuggling?

Section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 prohibits the importation and exportation of a controlled drug. However, this alone does not create an offence. The offence is actually the evading of the prohibition referred to in Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

This states that if any person is: “in relation to any goods, in any way knowingly concerned in any fraudulent evasion or attempt at evasion…of any duty chargeable on the goods…of any prohibition or restriction for the time being in force with respect to the goods under or by virtue of any enactment…he shall be guilty of an offence under this section and may be detained.”

When it comes to the law relating to drug smuggling (and the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979), it is the fraudulent evasion (or attempt at it) of the prohibitions of the import and export of a controlled drug that is key.

The main exception is when the drug smuggling involves psychoactive substances. The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 created two offences of importing or exporting these substances. In this instance, Section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 is not relevant to these offences.

Can I be prosecuted for drug smuggling even if I did not carry the drugs myself?

Yes, even if you did not physically bring the drugs into the country yourself, you could still be prosecuted for being involved in drug smuggling. If you knowingly received the controlled drugs then you could still be charged.

What is the sentence for drug smuggling

Drug smuggling is a serious criminal offence and if you are convicted, your sentence will reflect this. Drug smuggling prosecutions in the UK are dealt with in the Crown Court. The sentence given to someone convicted of drug smuggling will depend on the circumstances of their case, including how much the drugs are worth, the classification of the drugs and whether or not they co-operated with the police.

The maximum sentence for Class A drugs is life in prison. For Class B and Class C drugs, the maximum sentence is 14 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.

Anyone convicted of drug smuggling almost always receives a prison sentence, even if there is only a small quantity of the drug involved. However, in certain circumstances, it is possible to receive a suspended sentence.

Drug smuggling investigations will normally include a range of different bodies, including HM Revenue and Customs and the Serious Organised Crime Agency. An experienced lawyer can help you to navigate what can be highly complex investigations and prosecutions and work with you to ensure the best possible result in your circumstances.

Examples of drug smuggling sentences

In January 2021, three women who had attempted to smuggle £50,000 worth of cocaine into the UK from Jamaica were jailed. They had arrived into Gatwick Airport in November 2020 with the cocaine in ‘internal concealments’, the drugs weighing just under 1 kilogram in total. They all pleaded guilty to importing class A drugs.

Two of them each received a sentence of 32 months in prison, while the other received a 3-year prison sentence.

In another example of drug smuggling, two men were jailed after attempting to import £200,000 worth (2kg in weight) of cocaine from Holland to the UK on a jet ski. One man was given 7 and a half years in prison and the other was given a 7-year prison sentence.

Drug smuggling: which is the most serious class of drugs?

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 categorises drugs into three different groups or classes: A, B and C.

Class A drugs are the most serious and include drugs such as heroin, cocaine and ecstasy.

Class B drugs include cannabis and ketamine.

Class C drugs include tranquillisers and steroids.

If you import or export drugs such as those mentioned above, you would be committing a serious criminal offence and could find yourself with a lengthy jail sentence, if convicted.

What is the difference between drug smuggling and drug trafficking?

Drug smuggling involves importing and exporting controlled drugs across borders. Drug trafficking refers to the whole process, including the manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs. Drug smuggling refers more specifically to just the movement of drugs. However, there is often some overlap on the way the terms are used.

What should I do if I am arrested for drug smuggling?

Drug smuggling is a serious offence. If you are convicted of drug smuggling, you could find yourself with a lengthy prison sentence. A solicitor experienced in drug smuggling law can work with you throughout the entire process and ensure that if your case ends up in court, you achieve the best possible outcome.

The sooner you get in touch with a criminal lawyer who specialises in this area of law, the sooner they can start working with you to build a strong case for your defence.

Why do I need a solicitor experienced in drug smuggling law?

An experienced criminal lawyer can guide you through the legal proceedings and ensure that you get the best possible result for your circumstances.

Having a legal professional experienced in drug smuggling law to advise you throughout what can be a complex process, deal with your concerns, argue your case and represent you at court, if necessary, is invaluable.


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