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Dealing weed

If caught with drugs

What have we here, then? What to do if you're caught with illegal drugs.

If drugs are found on your person, you could be charged with one of two offences:

Charge 1: Possession

Being caught with an illegal drug for your own use, whether it is (or has been) in your pocket, your bag, your house or car. You can also be charged with this offence if the police find the drug somewhere else (such as in a locker) and can prove that you controlled its whereabouts.

If you're under 17, the police can also tell your parent/s or carer, and inform the Social Services and the Probation Service. Depending on the circumstances of your case, and local prosecution policy, the police then have these options for punishment:

A formal warning (which is put on local police files. If you offend again this may influence the police to charge you, rather than caution you).

A formal caution (a central police record held for 5 years. If you offend again, his can be used against you).

Charge you with an offence leading to a Youth Court hearing. (This is more likely for repeat offenders, who may end up with a fine or a custodial sentence).

You can be cautioned more than once, but if you keep getting caught, you'll go to court.

Charge 2: Possession with intent to supply drugs

Things get much heavier if you're caught supplying drugs to others, or even if the police suspect the drugs weren't just for you. If you had any intention of dealing, (which can include giving and sharing drugs) you may be charged with this more serious offence. Decisions over whether you're charged with intent to supply are based on the circumstances in which you were caught and the quantity of drugs you were caught with.

The police can take the same courses of action as in simple possession cases, but this time you're more likely to be charged. If your case goes to court the penalties are likely to be heavier.

Be aware that the charge of intent to supply is wide-ranging. It's not just heavy-duty smuggling cases that count. You can be done for carrying a couple of tabs for a mate, or a lump of dope split into smaller quantities, even passing a spliff to someone.

Drug penalties by class:

Class A

Ecstasy, LSD (acid), magic mushrooms, heroin, methadone, crack, cocaine, crystal meth, opium, and any class B drug prepared for injection.

Maximum penalties for supply: life imprisonment and/or a fine.

Class B

Amphetamines (speed), barbiturates, Cannabis, and codeine.

Maximum penalties for supply: 14 years prison and/or a fine.

Class C

Ketamine, some tranquillisers like Temazepam, the supply of anabolic steroids.

Max penalties for supply: 5 years prison and/or a fine.

What to do if you're caught:

Give your name and address when asked, but if you're in any doubt about further questions then get a solicitor. You won't lose any rights, and nor will it cost anything.

The police will provide you with a list of independent solicitors. You can pick one and call them. They may advise you over the phone, or visit you in person.

Alternatively, call Release on 0845 4500 215.

In the police station you have the right to:

Be treated with respect;

Be treated humanely;

Know why you've been arrested;

Speak to the custody officer;

Have someone notified of your arrest;

Consult with a solicitor privately.

Drug testing on arrest

If you're arrested and taken to a police station, you may be tested to find out if you've taken any Class A drugs. A person cannot be forced to provide a sample for testing, but it is an offence to refuse to provide a sample without good cause.

If you test positive for Class A drugs, you'll be required to attend a compulsory drug assessment by specialist drugs workers. The assessment will determine the extent of your drug problem and help you into treatment and other support, even if you're not charged with an offence.

Those who fail to provide a sample or comply with a required assessment face a fine of up to 2,500 and/or up to three months in prison.

Updated: 29/11/2012

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