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While charges that involve illegal substances may seem trite compared to some other the other possible charges out there (murder or possession of child pornography, for example) they are still not to be dismissed out of hand. Given the wide and varied nature of what counts as an illegal substance, combined with the possibility of severe sentences if you are shown to be doing more than merely possessing a small amount of the drug in question, these sorts of charges can be quite nerve-wracking. We want to help. In this article, we will lay out a general introduction to drug charges in England and Wales as well as some advice on how to find a lawyer to best represent you.
In terms of legislation, most charges involving illegal substances are governed by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, which lays out what kind of substances are prohibited or restricted, and what counts as an offence by law. According the UK Government, you can receive prison time and/or a fine for doing the following activities:
To complicate matters further, there are multiple categories of drugs that carry their own sentencing ranges. These are Category A-C substances, and temporary class drugs. Here’s a breakdown of the three major categories, which most drug offences fall into:
Given the varying degrees of both sentence lengths and substance categories, finding a great drugs lawyer in the UK is no small task. Narrow your search by looking for specific qualities that are important in a drug lawyer.
Drug charges are complex, and outcomes depend heavily on the substance you had at the time, and whether it can be shown you intended to distribute the substance to others. Having a lawyer on your side that is highly attentive to the facts surrounding the matter will make your chances of having a lower sentence (or none at all) increase substantially. Indeed, a highly analytical lawyer will be able to leverage pieces of information such as the drug category type or what your intent was with the substance given the facts presented, in order to classify your charges as less severe (i.e. possession vs. distribution).
There is nothing worse than feeling as though your concerns and ideas don’t matter, and law is no different. Working with a lawyer that is willing to listen to you and hear your side of the case will do wonders both for your personal wellbeing and your ability to be coached for how to answer questions during any possible trial. Working with someone that really hears you allows you to have confidence in their abilities and their character.
Because drug cases can be quite complex, it is of the highest priority that you find a lawyer that has a wealth of experience in the area of drug law. The best drugs lawyers in the UK typically have around 5-15 years’ experience, as a minimum, and they will have plenty of testimonials from happy clients. If your lawyer doesn’t have a good grasp of the nuances of drug law, you will be starting off your legal journey with a handicap, and that’s something no-one wants.
Finding a lawyer with the character to handle your case is one part of the puzzle. The other is finding one that has the credentials and reputation to see your case through to success. Here are some of the best places to find a reputable, qualified drugs lawyer:
Word of mouth
As long as you can be discreet enough and select your audience carefully, asking others you trust and respect can be a great way to find the best lawyer for your case. If a friend has gone through a similar drug charge, they might be willing to refer their lawyer to your case. A referral means you get to understand from someone else’s experience how the lawyer deals with clients, which in turn can give you significant peace of mind and a better grip on how your case will be handled.
An internet search
Admittedly simple, but a quick internet search can help you get off in the right direction. While searching for generic terms like, “best lawyers in the UK” may pull some results, they won’t be as specific as you should be looking for. It’s important to use very specific long-tail keywords when searching online. Here are some examples:
Check the UK Law Society website/directory
Another way to check the credentials of a prospective lawyer is the UK Law Society’s website. The UK Law Society also allows you to search for barristers or solicitors based on specific criteria, and also marks quality law firms/practitioners that are excelling in their field of practice. The site also has a great guide on learning about getting advice from a solicitor on common legal issues, that will help prepare you for any upcoming meetings with the lawyer you choose to work with.
Review industry rankings
Ranking websites and legal directories allow you to find a legal expert in your area that will meet search filters you set out such as: area of specialisation, firm/lawyer review rating, location in the UK, and other important points. Some of the best directories for finding a drug/substance lawyer are Legal 500, Chambers, and Law Firms. Some of these directories also have pieces written by lawyers that practise in the area you are researching, so you can educate yourself about your case and what might happen next.
Although each lawyer will be different, there are some common fee structures to be aware of when it comes time to pay your bill. As a quick note, remember that firms in the London area typically charge a bit more than those in other areas of the country, namely because of the higher costs associated with practising in the capital.
Generally, criminal defence lawyers charge in the range of £120-400+ per hour, depending on their experience and your case’s complexity. When you are reviewing possible lawyers to work with, it is important to take note of their hourly rates as you don’t want any unexpected surprises down the line.
Unlike hourly rates, retainer agreements involve you, the client, paying some or all of your fees upfront. Note that this isn’t some sort of a ploy to get your funds before the work is done to your liking. The lawyer will use their experience in previous cases as well as the complexity of your matter in order to determine an amount that is fair and represents the work required for a successful endeavour. Any hours are then billed against that rate. Retainers are, therefore, like pre-payment schemes.
Fixed fee agreements
Fixed fee arrangements involve paying a set amount for the handling of your case. This is good for you as a client because it means you get the benefit of price clarity. One thing to keep in mind with these fee structures, however, is that they are set at a rate that assumes your case will have a certain complexity level. If your matter climbs above that complexity threshold and could take much longer, expect to pay a bit more in fees. Moreover, keep in mind that fixed fee structures do not usually include other charges, such as VAT fees and disbursements.
If you are looking for a drugs lawyer in the UK that is compassionate, analytical, and has years of experience in substance abuse cases, look no further than Stuart Miller Solicitors. We are an experienced and highly rated team of criminal drugs lawyers and will be able to provide you the legal expertise you deserve. Get in touch for a free consultation today!
A legal expert will consult you within 24 hours of making an enquiry.
We will always treat you with trust, understanding and respect.
Your case will be handled by an expert who specialises in your type of offence.
We will take early action to end proceedings as soon as it is practically and legally possible to do so.
You will be kept updated on your case at all times. We will provide a named contact available to answer your questions.
We understand this is a difficult and stressful time for you and your family. Our team will support you every step of the way.
We will never give up on your case. We fight tirelessly to get you the best possible outcome.