Drugs & The Police also Drugs & The Law

Drugs & The Police also Drugs & The Law Information

These details are taken from Terrence Higgins Trust website www.drugfucked.tht.org.uk

For further information please call THT Direct on 0845 12 21 200 or visit www.tht.org.uk



If you’re stopped and searched by the police

The police can stop and search you if they have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that you’re in possession of a controlled drug. ‘Reasonable suspicion’ could include you acting suspiciously or fitting the description of a criminal seen in the area.

On the street the police can ask to check or remove your coat or gloves or show the contents of your bag. They should do a more thorough search out of public view, not on the street. If the police think you have drugs on you they can take you to the police station for a more intimate search without needing to arrest you.

If nothing’s found on you, you can go but details of the search are recorded.

You don’t have to give your name, address or date of birth (unless you’re caught with drugs or are being reported for an offence). If carrying anything illegal you can be arrested. 

Police can search your vehicle (even if you’re not there) but must leave a notice saying what they’ve done.

More info, including how to make a complaint, is at www.stopandsearch.com

If you’re taken into custody

If arrested, try to stay calm; getting worked-up makes the situation worse. Ask why they’re arresting you if they don’t tell you.

At a police station the police can do the following without your consent: take photos, fingerprints, saliva samples, oral swabs and impressions of your footwear.

They’ll need your written consent to take samples of blood, urine, semen, pubic hair, skin, or impressions of your teeth.

Intimate body searches (including taking off more than outer clothes) are usually only done with consent, except if the police suspect you’ve swallowed drugs or are carrying a weapon.

Being questioned

When you’re questioned the interview is taped. You have the right to stay silent and have regular breaks. You’ll be asked if you want to speak to a solicitor. You have a right to this free legal advice. Always say yes. Never think you can handle the situation yourself. Don’t let the police persuade you that speaking to a solicitor will slow things down or keep you there longer.

Telling people you’re at the police station

A lot of people wrongly think you have the right to make only one phone call. In fact, you have two rights – to have someone told of your arrest and to get legal advice from a solicitor. The police sergeant who booked you into the police station will make the phone calls to friends or family. This sergeant decides whether to let you talk to friends or family yourself. The sergeant will also call any solicitor you have details of. If you don’t have a particular solicitor in mind, you can get free legal advice from the ‘duty solicitor’ attached to the police station.

More advice

You’ll be asked to sign your ‘custody record’. Read it before signing, making sure it gives the exact reason for your arrest and that it confirms you want a solicitor. Although you may just want to get out of the station, don’t sign any statement without legal advice. If in doubt say nothing until you see a solicitor.

You can be kept at the police station for up to 24 hours without being charged (up to 36 hours with more serious offences).

If there’s not enough evidence to charge you, you can be released on bail (no money needs paying) to return later for more questions.

Being arrested is not the same as being charged for an offence. After arrest the police may decide not to charge you and let you go.

If you have HIV

If you’ve got HIV this should only be an issue if you need medical help or medication – otherwise you don’t need to tell them, even if they ask you. It’s best not to say you have HIV unless absolutely necessary. If you need medication ask to see the police surgeon. If you don’t look ill the police might ask why you want to see a doctor but be careful about what you say. Remind the police surgeon to keep your conversation confidential.

If you’re offered a caution

For minor offences, you may be offered a caution, especially in connection with cannabis. This is like a police warning to those who admit they’re guilty of a minor offence. If you accept a caution it may be brought up in court if in the future you were to find yourself up in court for another offence. You’ll also have to tell potential employers that you have a caution if applying for certain types of jobs.

If you already have had a caution for a similar offence you may be passed on to a magistrate’s court for a possible fine or short prison sentence. 

A caution is not the same as a conviction, so if asked on forms, etc. if you’ve been convicted for an offence you can reply ‘no’.


Driving while under the influence of drugs carries the same penalties as driving under the influence of alcohol – click here for details. More information about your legal rights is available at www.yourrights.org.uk. For information on the police entering your home search for ‘search premises’.

Other useful information can be found at www.askthe.police.uk


Drugs & The Law


What follows applies to the UK only. More on a drug’s legal status can be found on each separate drug’s page. (LEFT SIDE OF THE PAGE)

Drug classes

Drugs are grouped into 3 categories (Class A, B and C), with Class A carrying the heaviest penalties.

Any drug not in Class A, B or C is not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act but may be controlled under the Medicines Act or other legislation (e.g., consumption of tobacco and alcohol laws).

Class A

This covers ecstasy , acid/LSD, cocaine , crack, heroin, magic mushrooms, crystal meth  and any drug (such as speed) that’s been prepared for injecting.


  • possession: up to 7 years in prison and/or unlimited fine
  • supply: up to life in prison and/or unlimited fine

Class B

This covers amphetamines (e.g. speed) and barbiturates.


  • possession: up to 5 years in prison and/or unlimited fine
  • supply: up to 14 years in prison and/or unlimited fine

Class C

This covers GHBketaminecannabis and some tranquilisers – also supplying (but not possessing) steroids.


  • possession: up to 2 years in prison and/or unlimited fine
  • supply: up to 14 years in prison and/or unlimited fine

Maximum sentences are usually given to repeat offenders involved in serious offences.

What does ‘possession’ mean?

This includes having drugs on you, in your car, your house or in luggage you’re responsible for, even if it’s not with you at the time. If you weren’t aware the drugs were there then you’ve not committed a crime. But you are committing a crime if you know drugs are being kept or used in premises you’re responsible for (home, vehicle, business, etc.)

‘Possession’ can mean very small amounts of drug – in some countries just a trace on clothing, an amount too small to even use.

If you admit to drug taking in the past you can be charged with ‘past possession’. ‘Joint possession’ is when two or more people own a shared supply or pool together their drugs. If caught with drugs it’s even worse if you say ‘I was just carrying them for a friend’ or ‘they’re not all for me’ as this means you can be charged with supplying as well as possession.

What does ‘supply’ mean?

This covers dealing but also giving drugs to friends for free. You can be charged with ‘intent to supply’ if it’s thought you were planning on selling or giving the drugs to others later. The law punishes supplying and intending to supply drugs more harshly than just possessing them. Taking drugs into or out of the country carries the heaviest penalties.

When the police are using these laws on you

Get our advice about arrest on the Drugs and the Police page (ABOVE)