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How to get drug possession charges dropped according to UK law?

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The prospect of facing a drug possession charge can be extremely daunting, particularly if you are a first-time offender. You may understandably be concerned about the type of penalty you might receive and what impact this will have on your life moving forwards.

We have had many cases dropped after making written representations for out of court disposals or arguing that it is not in the public interest to prosecute or there is a lack of evidence.

Further information on having charges dropped can be found here:

With this in mind, it’s important to understand what to expect from a drug possession charge, including the factors that may lead to drug possession charges being dropped altogether. We discuss these matters in the following article.

While we hope this information is useful, please note, it should not be taken as legal advice. If you have been charged with drug possession and need legal support, then please get in touch and our team can advise you.

What are the charges for drug possession?

Under section 5 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) 1971, it is a criminal offence for a person to have a controlled drug in their possession. Section 37(3) explains that possession can also include contexts where controlled drugs are in the custody of another person but are subject to the defendant’s control.

The potential charges that can be raised for drug possession can vary significantly. Prison sentences are possible if you are convicted of being in possession of a controlled drug, although this is unlikely to be the case if this is your first offence and/or you had a small amount of drugs on your person.

The maximum sentence you could receive for drug possession are:

  • Possession of Class A drugs – Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
  • Possession of Class B drugs – Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
  • Possession of Class C drugs – Up to 2 years in prison

Do first time drug offenders go to jail in the UK?

If you are a first time offender and are caught with a small amount of drugs in your possession which are for personal use, being sent to prison is an unlikely outcome. The more likely alternative is that you will receive an out of court disposal, such as a caution or community resolution.

That said, even if your first offence is for drug possession, it is important to note that the punishment you receive is likely to be more serious if you are found to be in possession of a more serious controlled drug. For example, punishments for possession of Class A drugs as a first offence will be more serious than punishments for possession of Class C drugs as a first offence.

What might be considered mitigating circumstances for drug possession?

If you are facing a charge for drug possession, the police and courts will take various factors into account, including those which mitigate the seriousness of the offence.

One of the main mitigating factors that will be considered will be if someone is a first time offender. This can also be supported by additional mitigating factors, such as:

  • Remorse
  • Previous good character and/or exemplary conduct
  • Small amount of drugs for personal use
  • Lack of maturity
  • Mental disorder or learning disability
  • Serious medical condition
  • Sole or primary carer for dependent relatives

What might be considered aggravating circumstances for drug possession?

Equally, there are also a number of factors which could aggravate the potential sentence that is handed out for drug possession. These include:

  • Repeated offence
  • Large quantity of drugs
  • Evidence of county lines exploitation
  • Drugs cut with harmful substances
  • Drugs are of high priority
  • Evidence of community impact

How is first time possession of cannabis classified in the UK?

Generally, cannabis possession is treated more leniently by the police.

If it is your first offence, the police can issue a warning or an on-the-spot fine of up to £90 which you may be able to pay without receiving a formal warning or caution.

However, if you are repeatedly found in possession of cannabis, the penalty you receive may increase in severity – including the maximum sentence for possession in some cases.

Note that, to be legally in possession of medical cannabis, you will need to have been prescribed the drug by one of the approved doctors to treat your condition.

If the charges are dropped, will it still show on my record?

If criminal charges for drug possession are dropped before a trial commences, the charges will not appear on your criminal record. However, if charges are dropped after a trial has commenced it could appear on your enhanced DBS check.

It is also important to be aware that a DBS check filter will apply to most cautions and discharges for drug possession. Equally, any warnings, cautions, discharges and convictions all stay on the police national computer (PNC).

Credit for guilty plea

In short, where a guilty plea is indicated at the first stage of proceedings, you could receive a reduction from 1/3 of a penalty for possession of drugs.

More information regarding the potential outcomes for indicating a guilty plea can be found here.

What can I do if I'm accused of possessing drugs?

If you are facing a charge of possessing drugs, having expert legal advice on your side is key. At JD Spicer Zeb, our criminal defence solicitors have previously advised and represented clients who have found themselves in a wide range of drug possession cases.

If criminal proceedings are launched, our team can guide you through all of the stages involved, ensuring that your legal rights are protected and that you are able to reach the best possible outcome for your case.

Our criminal defence solicitors have over 45 years of experience, with our expertise being recognised through a Law Society accreditation in Criminal Litigation. We have a strong track record of success and, over the years we have been able to establish close relationships with many of the country’s leading criminal defence barristers.

If you are facing a charge for possessing drugs, we are well placed to provide you with the support you need.

Related matters

We also provide support and guidance on various other matters that are related to drug possession charges, including:

Fees and funding

Our team always ensure to make our legal fees clear and transparent.

If you need to attend court, legal aid public funding will become available in certain cases. This will depend on whether it justified the grant of public funding.

Where you do not qualify for legal aid public funding, the alternative would be to fund the case on a private basis.

To find out more about the way we handle fees (both legal aid public funding and private fees) for drug possession charges, please use the links provided below:

Speak to our criminal lawyers today

If you are due to attend the police station in relation to drug possession charges, require any urgent specialist advice, or immediate representation, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can contact our specialist criminal defence lawyers in London, Birmingham and Manchester by telephone on:

Or email: solicitors@jdspicer.co.uk

Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form, and we will get back to you quickly.

24/7 legal representation for drug possession charges

Please get in touch for a free consultation with one of our expert criminal defence solicitors, as well as immediate representation and advice for drug possession charges.

We are available to represent clients all over England and Wales at any time, so please contact our Emergency Number at 07836 577 556.

Bespoke Private Fee Service

If you believe your case is likely to have serious consequences for you now, or in the future and you have the means to pay for this service

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Do we offer free consultations? 

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How can we help?

Common questions

We always work with the most experienced and best leading UK barristers, KCs (Kings Counsel). We cover all criminal cases 24/7 at the police station and court. Offices in London, Birmingham, and Manchester cover cases across England and Wales. We can offer Legal Aid and affordable Private fee agreements. We can see you the same day, including virtually. Our Senior Partners supervise all of our cases.

How quickly do you respond?

We respond quickly even during out of hours. We do not get our work by paying for online adverts but based on the fact that few criminal law firms can match our 45 years of experience. Most of our cases are still from word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients. We are called daily by dissatisfied clients from firms with less experience than us. We respond very quickly to new enquiries. We know what clients seek and so we update clients rapidly.

Can you get cases dropped?

Yes, read about the recent cases we've helped our clients with here.

We always keep you updated and give straightforward advice. We will get cases dropped early where the case is weak or should not be prosecuted. We will be upfront with you about where you can benefit from a good result with an early guilty plea, such as a discount on your sentence. As we work on cases across all levels with clients from all walks of life, we are excellent at giving clear, spot-on advice. As an established firm, we can allocate a whole team to your case often at short notice to secure evidence to minimise the damage to you. 

Have you won any awards?


"JD Spicer Zeb demonstrated a clear commitment to client service through their work with vulnerable and diverse individuals in what can be severely traumatic circumstances".

Do you offer free consultations?

Where it is possible, we aim to provide an initial consultation to you. If we can speak to you, we can if required inform you about  –

  • Whether we can take the case on and our relevant experience.
  • Public and private funding benefits.
  • Assistance in applying for legal aid where we are likely to accept instructions.
  • An outline of options in police interview only. We will not advise you on which option to adopt.
  • Providing our free written guide explaining the police station process.
  • The gravity of routine and day-to-day offences you face.
  • Consequences of not attending the court or police station.
  • Consequences of interfering with any witnesses.
  • Retaining any evidence in support of your case.
  • If possible an outline of the elements of the offence that the police or CPS must prove.
  • This consultation will normally be by telephone or email and will only be for as long as we deem necessary to establish if we can act for you. If we cannot usefully give you any advice in this manner then we will not continue with the consultation. We will not discuss the case in depth for you to be able to decide on your plea or any significant aspect of the case, as this cannot be undertaken informally.
  • Referring you, if possible, to other firms for matters out of our specialism or if we cannot help.

Consultations do not apply to the following cases –

  • If we do not intend to take the case on.
  • Road Traffic cases, drink driving, drug driving, driving bans, speeding, no insurance, mobile phone use, points etc.
  • In all cases where we do not have the capacity to take your case or the availability of suitably qualified staff to provide an initial free consultation. This is applicable in all cases but especially where a more senior lawyer is required because of your personal needs or the complexity of the case.
  • Harassment/stalking/ coercive behaviour/malicious communications or road traffic cases and most sensitive cases. These cases are often too complicated to assess in short consultations.
  • The locations concerned may be too distant to represent you adequately or it may not be cost-effective for you or us.
  • The case is too complicated to assess or raises various charges or facts, complexity, or history to be considered informally or in a short consultation.
  • In most Legal aid transfers where legal aid is granted to another firm except in very grave cases, we may assess the case and merits for a transfer.
  • If your relationship has broken down with your existing solicitor or several solicitors.
  • If you have been released under investigation and have already had a police station attendance. 
  • If you hold legal aid with another firm and seek a second opinion.
  • If you are calling on behalf of the client as a friend or family member unless you have full authority and full facts.
  • To businesses.
  • Advising whether you were given good advice by your other solicitor.
  • Whether to decide to plead guilty or not guilty.
  • Whether you have an arguable defence in law or factually complicated defences.
  • Any advice you have had after your first court appearance.
  • Any advice on appeal on conviction or sentence.
  • If we feel we are unable to communicate with you.
  • If we are likely to be conflicted or breach our professional rules.