Drugs and the Criminal Law
The law relating to controlled drugs is enshrined in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This legislation set out the basic types of drugs that are illegal and divided them into three categories:
Class AEcstasy, LSD, cocaine, heroin, crack cocaine, mushrooms, amphetamines (when prepared for injection.
If you are caught in possession of these drugs you could receive an unlimited fine and up to 7 years in prison. If you are caught dealing these drugs, you could face life imprison, an unlimited fine or both.
Class BPholcodine, amphetamines and Methylphenidate (Ritalin).
If you are caught in possession of these drugs you could receive an unlimited fine, up to 5 years in prison or both. If you care caught dealing these drugs you could face up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Class CTranquilisers, cannabis, some painkillers, Ketamine and Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB).
If you are caught in possession of these drugs you could receive an unlimited fine, two 2 years in prison or both. If you are caught dealing these drugs you could face an unlimited fine, up to 14 years in prison or both.
Note that the government is currently looking at reclassifying cannabis. A report is due in 2008 that could result in cannabis becoming a class B controlled drug as there has been growing concern about the availability of the stronger variety of cannabis often called 'skunk'.
Using and Supply DrugsIt is an offence to supply drugs to anyone that isn't allowed to own them. If you buy drugs that you later give to friends, this is supplying. Even if only keep drugs for a friend, when you give the drugs back to them, this is also considered supplying drugs by the police, which they can prosecute you for. It is also not true that you will only be arrested in possession of large amounts of drugs. If the police can prove that you knew about the drugs in your possession no matter how small the amount, you can and will be prosecuted.
Where drugs are kept can also be illegal. It is often mistakenly thought that the police must stop you with the drugs on your person. This is not true. If the police find drugs at your home, in a bag or a locker for instance, this is still considered possession. It is true that some police forces may turn a blind eye if you are found in possession of small amounts of cannabis, but cannabis is still an illegal drug along with ecstasy and heroin.
Drug DrivingAs well as driving under the influence of alcohol, the police can also pull your car over and test you for illegal drugs. If you are caught drug driving you can expect the same penalties as drink driving that could mean a fine up to £5,000 or a prison sentence of up to 6 months. If you kill someone while driving and under the influence of controlled drugs you could be sent to jail for up to 10 years and have a 2-year driving ban.
If the police stop you they can carry out roadside testing. Unlike alcohol that has set limits, drugs have no legal limit set on them as each drug can have a different effect on a person. The police officers that stop you will usually ask you to perform a field impairment test. This is a series of coordination tests including closing your eyes and touching your nose or standing on one leg for 30 seconds. If you fail to take these tests this is an offence and you will most likely be arrested and taken to a police station.
If you are taken to a police station further tests will be carried out. These will usually be either a urine test of a blood test. Only a doctor can take a blood test. But you don't have to be sober for these tests to be carried out.