Drugs and crime
You may think that the police will only arrest someone who's caught dealing drugs. But even using drugs for your personal use may land you with a large fine or time in prison.
All drugs are put into one of three categories according to how dangerous they are.
Class A drugs are drugs that have the most harmful effects. These drugs include heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and LSD.
Class B drugs are drugs that are less dangerous than Class A ones, but they can still be harmful if they are misused. Class B drugs include speed, cannabis and some amphetamines.
Class C drugs are less dangerous to the user than Class A and Class B drugs. However, they are still classed as illegal and can be harmful. Class C drugs include ketamine, GHB and some tranquilisers.
If you're caught with drugs in your bag or in your pocket, you may be charged with possessing an illegal substance, whether it's yours or not. If you're under 17, the police are allowed to tell your parent or carer that you've been caught.
If you have been found in possession of drugs, the punishment that you receive will depend on the type of drug that the police found and your personal history.
If you were found with a Class C drug and you do not have a criminal history, you will receive a formal warning or a police caution at the very least. If you're found with a Class A or B drug, or if you have a history of drug offences, you're likely to face a much tougher punishment.
The maximum sentences for possession of each class of drug are:
- up to seven years in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) for a Class A drug
- up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) for a Class B drug
- up to two years in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) for a Class C drug
Even if you only deal drugs to friends or don't exchange any money, these sentences are likely to increase heavily.
Cannabis is now classified as a Class B drug, alongside speed
The change of law to reclassify cannabis to a Class B means more severe penalties for people caught in possession of cannabis. Police will take action and you can be arrested even if it is the first time you are caught.
If caught in possession of cannabis, as well as considering arrest and confiscating the drug police are likely to:
- give you a cannabis warning for a first offence of possession
- give you a Penalty Notice for Disorder (an on-the-spot fine of 80) for a second offence
- arrest you if it is the third time you have been caught with cannabis; this could lead to conviction and a criminal record.
Aged between 10 and 17
If you're caught in possession of cannabis, the police will confiscate the drug and may arrest you or refer you to a Youth Offending Team (YOT). The police are also likely to:
- give you a reprimand and tell your parents what has happened if it is the first time you've been caught
- give you a final warning and refer you to a YOT if it's your second offence
- arrest you if it is the third time you have been caught with cannabis, which could lead to a conviction and a criminal record
Mephedrone, or meow meow, used to be legal to buy in the UK over the internet.
Following the deaths of several teenagers who had been taking the drug, mephedrone (and related cathinone substances) has now been classified as a Class B drug. This means it is illegal to sell, buy or possess. Importing mephedrone into the UK has also been banned.
Intent to supply and dealing
Punishments for supplying drugs are a lot tougher than those for possession. You should also remember that supplying drugs doesn't just apply to dealers. If the police think you intended to share drugs with your friends, this is still considered as supplying.
The police are more likely to charge you if they suspect you intended to supply drugs, but will still take into account the amount of drugs that you had and your criminal record.
The maximum sentences for intent to supply drugs are:
- up to life in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) for a Class A drug
- up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine (or both) for a Class B or Class C drug
Although not illegal, there are restrictions on the sale of other substances that can be harmful if they are misused:
- it's against the law for a shop to sell solvents, cigarette lighter refills and some glues to under 18s if they believe that you'll use them as a drug
- if you're under 18, you will not be allowed to buy alcohol, cigarettes, cigars or tobacco
This material is subject to Crown Copyright.
This content is subject to Crown Copyright