What happens if you get caught with drugs in your possession?

The Office For National Statistics reported in 2017 that 81% of drug offences during the year were to do with possession, rather than the supply or production of illegal substances.

With possession making up the majority of drugs offences during this period, what can you expect if you have been caught with drugs in your possession?

If this situation applies to you, or you would simply like to know more about what would happen, read our short guide that describes everything you need to know.

Police Stop and Search

It is not uncommon to be stopped by police if they deem it necessary, to ask you your name, what you are doing or where you are going. Generally, this might just be a precaution if they are worried about your safety unless you are acting suspiciously.

If they have reasonable grounds to suspect you of possessing drugs, police will not only stop you but also choose to search you as well.

Legally, a police officer must state their name and station, what they are searching you for (illegal drugs or otherwise), why they want to search you and how you can get a copy of this search record after it has taken place.

They can also ask you to remove pieces of clothing if they deem it necessary, though they will need to take you somewhere out of public view. Lastly, a police officer can search you without reasonable grounds if they suspect you are carrying something more serious such as a dangerous weapon.

Different Types of Drugs and Penalties

The outcome of the search will be for the police officer to decide, but there are guidelines to adhere to depending on the classification of the drug that they find on your person. Below we have listed the main classifications along with the penalties you can expect to receive for possession.

Class A 

Types of Class A drug: crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms

Penalty for possession: due to the severity of the drug the possessor can receive an unlimited fine as well as up to 7 years in prison

Class B

Types of Class B drug: amphetamines, cannabis, codeine, ketamine, synthetic cannabinoids

Penalty for possession: due to the severity of the drug the possessor can receive an unlimited fine as well as up to 5 years in prison

Class C

Types of Class C drug: anabolic steroids, benzodiazepines (diazepam), piperazines, khat

Penalty for possession: the possessor can receive an unlimited fine as well as up to 2 years in prison (apart from anabolic steroids as it is not illegal to possess them for personal use

Psychoactive Substances

Types of psychoactive substances: anything that causes hallucinations such as laughing gas

Penalty for possession: no action taken

There are also some new drugs that are yet to be classified, which police consider as ‘Temporary Class Drugs’. If they find these during a search no action is taken but they can be taken away as a precaution.

Outcomes of Drug Possession

After you have been searched, a police officer is then able to assess what he has found and then take action. Depending on the classification of the drug and the amount that you have on your person, you can expect one of four outcomes to occur:

  • No action taken – you are free to go on your way
  • Issued with a warning – multiple warnings can lead to a more serious outcome
  • On the spot fine – depending on the drug you could have to pay a fine
  • To be arrested – if you have a large amount of a dangerous drug, chances are you will be arrested and taken into custody

Other factors that may affect the severity of the charge handed out by police include previous crimes committed and whether you are intending to supply drugs to others or produce them in the first place. The penalties for supply or production are much more severe than possession.

If you would like any advice over drugs offences or you have been caught with drugs in your possession personally, get in touch with DPP Law today to find out what to do next.