The UK Law For First Time Drug Offenders

The UK Law For First Time Drug Offenders
Legally reviewed by: Kevin Waddingham Updated: In: Criminal Defence

For UK first time drug offenders facing conviction, the likelihood of jail depends on the specifics of your case at hand such as the class of drugs involved, and whether you were in possession, supplying, production or importing.

Although there’s a risk of facing jail time for first-time drug offences, the legal system will often look for alternatives for minor drug offences, and for first-time drug offenders without a criminal record.

This article looks at what charges may be issued to first-time drug offenders and what can influence the severity of a penalty. If you are facing conviction for drug related offences, it’s vital that you seek out an expert criminal defence solicitor, to minimise the sentencing or penalty you serve.

Read more about our drug offence solicitors.

What Offences Can First Time Drug Offenders Be Charged For?

If you are facing charges for drug offences in the UK, you will have been charged under one or more of the following:

  1. Possession of drugs even if they do not belong to the individual.
  2. Supply or conspiracy to supply – This includes dealings or sharing with friends. No evidence of payment or reward is required.
  3. Production of a drug
  4. Importation or exportation of a controlled drug

What Are the Sentences for First-Time Drug Offenders?

Regarding all drug offences, the type of sentencing will often be dictated partly by the type of controlled substance. In most cases the higher the class of drugs, the more severe the sentencing will be (e.g., Class A offences will be stricter than Class C offences).

Read more about drug penalties for drug classes.

The judge or magistrates’ proceedings for the case will decide on which sentence to make by referring to sentencing guidelines and by looking at the law.

The maximum sentence a person could receive is seven years’ custody, and/or an unlimited fine or both for a possession conviction. Furthermore, for a supply, production and importation conviction, a life sentence, and/or unlimited fine punishment.

If this is your first-time facing conviction for drug possession, it not likely that you will face any jail time and with the right legal guidance, possession of a lower-class drug and favourable factors such as no criminal record, the court may drop the charges made against you. Additionally, if you have no prior criminal record, this can act in your favour and reduce your punishment to an out of court disposal, community resolution, or conditional caution. However, if you are convicted first-time for drug dealing offences or drug driving offences, the court can give out harsher sentences such as prison time.

Alternative Penalties for First-Time Drug Offenders

Even in cases where an individual is not faced with a jail sentence, other penalties can still be faced by first-time drug offenders. Penalties include Community Resolutions and Conditional Cautions.

A Community Resolution is often used by the police to deal with lower-level offences. Additionally, Community Resolution can be given to an offender who admits to the offence and agrees to engage in a form of reparation. A Community Resolution is not recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC).

A Conditional Caution acts very similarly to a Community Resolution, except it is recorded on the PNC.

Furthermore, a first-time drug offence can result in an absolute or conditional discharge from the court. An absolute discharge is when the offender will not receive a punishment providing that they are not further prosecuted for a further offence within the next 12-18 months.

Can You Face Charges if You Are Not in Possession of the Drugs?

Yes, you can face charges, known as conspiracy charge, even if there is no physical evidence that the controlled drug was in your possession.

Criminal law defines ‘conspiracy’ as an agreement between two or more parties to carry out a criminal act. Therefore, the charges relate to the agreement to conspire, meaning that an agreement was put in place or evidence has been provided showing an intention to act illegally. 

How Cartwright King’s Drug Offences Solicitors Can Help You

At Cartwright King, our criminal defence solicitors specialise in defending clients against drug-related offences. We can help minimise the impact of your offence and guide you through the process, ensuring you understand what to expect.

Regardless of the complexity of your situation, our solicitors provide expert support and guidance, working to reduce the severity of any sentence or fine if convicted.

If you need help defending against allegations of a drug offence, contact us today on 03458 941 622 or contact us online here.

Legal Disclaimer.

All advice is correct at time of publication.