According to the Office for National Statistics’ latest crime report from April 2017 to March 2018, there were a total of 136,089 drug related crimes in England and Wales during that time. Of these, 26,585 drug trafficking crimes were committed in England and Wales.

With the growing accessibility of being able to buy pharmaceutical drugs online, the potential for being accused of drug trafficking has increased. Read on for our in-depth guide on drug trafficking offences and what to expect if you or a family member is charged with this crime.


Drug offences and types of drugs

If you make or sell drugs or psychoactive substances, take, carry or have them in your possession, you can be charged with an offence.

The length or severity of the prison sentence and/or fine depends on the class of the drug, the amount you have and whether you are also dealing or producing it. The sentence can increase if there are more aggravating factors in your case. It could also decrease if there are less serious factors or depending on how early you plead guilty, however, there are no statutory rights to a reduced sentence based on an early guilty plea.


Class A Drugs

Possession of Class A drugs carries a prison sentence of up to 7 years, an unlimited fine or both. If you are supplying or producing a class A drug, you can get up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both. The following substances are class A drugs:

  • Crack cocaine
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy (MDMA)
  • Heroin
  • LSD
  • Magic mushrooms
  • Methadone
  • Methamphetamine (crystal meth)

Class B Drugs

Possession of Class B drugs carries a prison sentence of up to 5 years, an unlimited fine or both. If you are supplying or producing a class B drug, you can get up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. The following substances are class B drugs:

  • Amphetamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Cannabis
  • Codeine
  • Ketamine
  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin)
  • Synthetic cannabinoids
  • Synthetic cathinone (e.g. mephedrone, methoxetamine)

Class C Drugs

Possession of Class C drugs carries a prison sentence of up to 2 years, an unlimited fine or both. This is true apart from anabolic steroids, which are not a drug offence if you possess them for personal use. If you are supplying or producing a class C drug, you can get up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. The following substances are class C drugs:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Benzodiazepines (diazepam)
  • Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB)
  • Gamma-butyrolactone (GBL)
  • Piperazines (BZP)
  • Khat

Temporary class drugs

If you are found in possession of temporary class drugs, they can be confiscated by police. However, if you are supplying or producing a temporary class drug, you can get up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. The following are classed as temporary class drugs, although it’s worth noting that the government can ban new drugs for one year while deciding how they should be classified:

  • Some methylphenidate substances (ethylphenidate, 3,4-dichloromethylphenidate
  • Methylnaphthidate (HDMP-28)
  • Isopropylphenidate (IPP or IPPD)
  • 4-methylmethylphenidate
  • Ethylnaphthidate
  • Propylphenidate
  • Simple derivatives of the above

Types of drug trafficking

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), drug trafficking is “a global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws”. You can be charged with drug trafficking if you are caught:

  1. With a large quantity of drugs
  2. Preparing, which could include separating the drugs into smaller packages or manufacturing a drug
  3. Selling the drugs
  4. Buying drugs for a friend

A prison sentence is likely if you are found to be trafficking drugs, although the severity largely depends on the type and quantity of drugs you are found with.

If the quantity is equal to or less than the amount considered for trafficking, then the Judge or Magistrate will consider the starting point for possession or supply offences depending on the intent and role of the person caught during the trafficking of drugs. The threshold quantities of drugs that are considered small quantities are:

  • Heroin, cocaine – 5g
  • Ecstasy – 20 tablets
  • LSD – 170 squares
  • Amphetamine – 20g
  • Cannabis – 100g
  • Ketamine – 5g    

First offence drug trafficking

If you are caught with a small amount of a drug for personal use, your conviction may be reduced based on mitigation. This does, however, depend on any previous convictions, cautions and the class of the drug found in your possession.

If you have no previous convictions or no relevant or recent convictions and you have been charged with drug trafficking, you may be entitled to a reduction in sentence based on personal mitigation.

Drug trafficking consequences

Drug trafficking is an expansive and complex area of law and the consequences of being charged with this crime will have a significant impact on your life and freedom. Being charged with drug trafficking will result in your having a criminal record and can affect areas of your life including employment, education, mortgage applications, insurance policies and even travel.


Having a criminal record can be extremely damaging to your current and future employment. If you receive a custodial sentence for drug trafficking, you will more than likely be dismissed by your current employer as you will no longer be able to perform your duties whilst in prison.

Future employers may be put off from hiring you if they run Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks on you, which provides them with a list of previous convictions. There are several professions such as doctors, solicitors, and teachers which are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, that allows for cautions and convictions to eventually be wiped off the record. This would make finding a job within these professions near impossible.


Having a criminal record may mean that you cannot enroll on a university course, as many require you to declare if you hold any previous criminal convictions. This is considered on a separate basis to your academic qualifications and stops you based on the nature of the offence and time elapse. The impact your enrolment could have on other students and staff will also be taken into account.


You may have difficulties travelling abroad. Some countries, particularly the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have strict entry requirements which may not let you visit even if your conviction is spent. This is true even if you are looking to enter the country as a tourist.

How to beat a drug trafficking charge

If you or anyone you know has been charged with drug trafficking in the UK, you should seek expert legal advice to see that the most favourable result for you can be obtained.

At Carter Moore, our team of expert criminal defence solicitors has years of experience and knowledge in dealing with high profile cases and legal proceedings for the most serious of crimes. If you require criminal legal advice or a criminal defence solicitor for a drug related crime, contact us today at 0800 1 444 111 or email us at