Help, I Have Been Charged With Being In Possession of Drugs!
If you have been caught in possession of an illegal substance you will need to obtain legal advice as this offence can carry a prison sentence (although this would normally not be handed down on a first offence). To help you understand the law surrounding possession of controlled drugs, we have answered some of the most commonly asked questions.
What does the prosecution have to prove for me to be found guilty in court?
The prosecution will need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that:
- the substance was a controlled drug,
- it was in your possession or control and
- you knew, or should have reasonably known that the drug was in your possession
There is both a physical and mental element for the prosecution to prove. For example, if the drugs were planted on you without your knowledge and you did not have the time to discover their existence, it is likely that you will have a strong defence as it would be difficult for the prosecution to prove the third element of the offence.
What if the drugs were found in a friend’s car that I was travelling in?
In R v Searle  Crim LR 592, drugs were found in a vehicle jointly used by the defendants. Possession of any particular drug could not be attributed to any particular defendant. It was held that mere knowledge of the presence of a controlled drug in the hands of another was not sufficient since knowledge does not equate to possession. If, however, the drugs formed a common pool from which all had the right to draw at will or there was a shared intention to take the drugs together, this could be enough for a jury to find that there was a common enterprise and therefore possession on the part of all.
What are the main defences available if I have been charged with being in possession of a controlled drug?
Although it is not commonly used, an accused does have a defence if they can prove they took possession of the controlled drugs to prevent another person committing or commissioning an offence.
The most frequently used defences are contained in the section 28 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The defences are that the accused did not know, suspect or have reason to suspect that the substance in their possession was a controlled drug.
What are the current sentences if I am found guilty of being in possession of a controlled drug?
If you are found guilty, the sentence you receive will depend on a number of factors, including whether or not this is your first offence, the class that the drug falls into and the amount you had on you.
The maximum custodial sentences are as follows:
- class A drugs—Crown Court - seven years, Magistrates’ Court - six months
- class B drugs— Crown Court - five years, Magistrates’ Court - three months, and
- class C drugs— Crown Court - two years, Magistrates’ Court - three months
If you have been caught in possession of a controlled drug, you can find an expert criminal solicitor by searching through Solicitors Guru today.