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Possession with intent to supply drugs is an offence that can come with a stiff punishment. This article provides detailed guidance on the typical sentencing for this offence.

What is the sentence for Possession with Intent to Supply in 2023?

The offence of possession with intent to supply typically involves the distribution of drugs. There doesn’t even need to be any payment involved, just to supply drugs to another party whether they are a friend, or a paying person is enough for you to be prosecuted.

If you’ve been contacted by the police in any way about being involved or allegations about being involved in a drug offence, it’s vital that you know how you can protect yourself.

No matter whether you have any prior experience with them, the law courts can be a frightening place.  Being accused of possessing drugs with an intent to supply, may result in a hefty prison sentence.

You may have been caught by surveillance cameras, undercover police officers, stopped and searched or through another means. This is a situation where it’s in your favour to seek the advice of a good legal team immediately.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of a possession with intent to supply drugs offence, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines.  Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get a prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.

Have you been charged or arrested for Possession with Intent to Supply?  

If you or somebody close to you has been charged or arrested in connection to a possession with intent to supply case, you could be feeling frightened, stressed and worried about what the outcome of an investigation might be.

In some cases, you may have been invited to the police station to discuss your involvement, or you may have been charged with this crime when you should have been charged with possession.

Here are some examples of what may constitute a possession with intent to supply investigation that may have led to the situation at hand.

  • Possession of a quantity inconsistent with personal use – this refers to situations where people have a large quantity of drugs in their possession.
  • Possession of uncut drugs or drugs in an unusually pure state – drugs of this nature suggest that the person who has them in their possession have proximity to an importer or manufacturer.
  • Possession of a variety of drugs – a variety of drugs suggests that they are for sale rather than be consumed.
  • Evidence that the drug has been prepared for sale – drugs that have been divided into small portions, wrapped in film, foil or bagged.
  • Drug-related equipment – paraphernalia such as scissors, other cutting agents, bags and scales in the possession or control of the suspect all suggest that selling is taking place.
  • Diaries or other documents that confirm drug dealing – ‘shopping lists’ or lists of quantities and descriptions of drugs desired by customers with telephone numbers.

Whatever your situation, it’s important that you don’t attend a police interview without being accompanied by a competent solicitor. The police may invite you for a ‘chat’ or even tell you they need to know your side of the story. However, any meeting or telephone conversation that you have with the police could be used as evidence and proof of your involvement.

Under no circumstances should you attend the police station without a qualified and skilled legal representative. Doing so could put you at risk of being incriminated.

What is the typical sentence for possession with intent to supply offences?

Depending on the particulars of your specific case, you may be given a prison sentence for possession with intent to supply.

If your case is being heard in the Crown Court, and you have been found guilty of possession of intent to supply a Class A drug, you could be sentenced to life imprisonment and given an unlimited fine to pay. The maximum prison sentence for this crime with either Class A or Class B drugs is 14 years and you may also be given an unlimited fine to pay.

Sentences handed out at Magistrates Courts are the most lenient. You may be given 6 months imprisonment and with a fine of £5000 for Class A drugs.

If you have already served prison time for this offence, the minimum amount you receive will be 7 years.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the possession with intent to supply for sentencing purposes?

The information that judges are given with regards to sentencing are only guidelines, and each case will be looked at individually. One of the primary factors that judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following factors are considered when the court decides which sentence to give. The court will look at:

  • Your previous conviction(s)
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was originally legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any serious medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents

The following is an extract from the Sentencing Guidelines which are provided to judges to decide upon penalties.

Where the operation is on the most serious and commercial scale, involving a quantity of drugs significantly higher than category 1, sentences of 20 years and above may be appropriate, depending on the role of the offender.

Culpability demonstrated by offender’s role

One or more of these characteristics may demonstrate the offender’s role. These lists are not exhaustive.

Leading role

  • directing or organising buying and selling on a commercial scale;
  • substantial links to, and influence on, others in a chain;
  • close links to original source;
  • expectation of substantial financial gain;
  • uses business as cover;
  • abuses a position of trust or responsibility, for example prison employee, medical professional.

Significant role

  • operational or management function within a chain;
  • involves others in the operation whether by pressure, influence, intimidation or reward;
  • motivated by financial or other advantage, whether or not operating alone;
  • some awareness and understanding of scale of operation;
  • supply, other than by a person in a position of responsibility, to a prisoner for gain without coercion.

Lesser role

  • performs a limited function under direction;
  • engaged by pressure, coercion, intimidation;
  • involvement through naivety/exploitation;
  • no influence on those above in a chain;
  • very little, if any, awareness or understanding of the scale of operation;
  • if own operation, absence of any financial gain, for example joint purchase for no profit, or sharing minimal quantity between peers on non-commercial basis.

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the possession with intent to supply sentence?

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. In possession with intent to supply cases, they may include:

  • Whether the defendant is disabled or mentally ill
  • The age of the defendant, i.e. if they are particularly young their age may affect their level of responsibility
  • If there are previous, relevant or recent convictions
  • Suspect shows a considerable level of genuine remorse
  • A previous good character with exemplary conduct
  • If there is a learning disability or mental disorder linked to this offence
  • There have been demonstrative steps made to address this behaviour

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for possession with intent to supply with a guilty plea?

In recent years, a number of changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

  • ‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.
  • If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.
  • After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten percent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.

If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s important for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of possession with intent to supply offences?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of an offence. These are extra elements that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that affect a dependent’s finances, property or activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of possession with intent to supply include:

As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.

In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining sufficient evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

are sentences added to national information databases?

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of possession with intent to supply, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

Other drug related offences

Other offences in the drugs law arena include:

  • Possession of a controlled drug
  • Importation offences
  • Production offences
  • Supply of articles
  • Opium related offences
  • Throwing articles into prisons

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

Our Criminal Solicitors have substantial experience defending individuals being investigated or prosecuted for Possession with Intent to Supply Drugs charges. With an aggressive attitude to Criminal Defence, we are committed to being pro-active in fighting your case, rather than re-active. We have successfully challenged the admissibility of crucial prosecution evidence and moved to make applications to dismiss Possession with Intent to Supply Drugs charges altogether. We are fluent with contesting evidence obtained secretly using covert surveillance and we have very good relationships with mobile phone / cell-site analysts who can give evidence in your favour.

If you have any questions that you cannot find an answer to here, feel free to contact us for further guidance. Call us on +44 (0) 208 888 5225. We also have a solicitor on standby outside of normal hours for emergencies. The telephone number is +44 (0) 7980 000 076. We are always happy to speak with you about what to expect and which steps you should take.

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

Possession with intent to Supply charges are brought under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Controlled drugs are drugs listed in Schedule 2 of the 1971 Act. They are given classification A, B, C. Class A drugs include heroin, cocaine, LSD, morphine, opium, ecstasy (MDMA). Class B drugs include amphetamines, codeine, methadrine, cannabis and cannabis resin. Class C include drugs such as Lucofen, villescon etc.

The law says that possession carries its normal dictionary meaning; however, ‘Supply’ means that you passed the controlled drug to another person. It matters not whether the ‘supply’ was for profit or as a friendly gesture. The minute you passed it to another denotes ‘supply’.

The prosecution’s case

In order to prove these charges against you, the prosecution do not need direct evidence showing that you have passed a controlled drug to someone else. The prosecution’s burden of proving the case is to show that you had the intention to do so. Typically, the prosecution will build its case on circumstantial evidence to show your intention. Circumstantial evidence in cases such as these would include the amount of the controlled drug found on your possession, being in possession of scales, unexplained large quantity of cash, cling film, incriminating text and WhatsApp messages and any previous convictions that you may have for similar offences.  The prosecution will argue that the culmination of all these factors proves, beyond reasonable doubt, that you are guilty of the charge, Possession with Intent to Supply Drugs of whichever class is alleged.

In addition, where there is evidence of significant profit from the supply of drugs, the prosecution may apply to the court for a Restraint Order with the effect of freezing your assets. Our Criminal Solicitors have vast experience of defending Drugs Offences. Where a Restraint Order is made prior to the criminal charge, we can negotiate the best deal for you, including adequate amounts for daily living expenses and legal costs. Where negotiation is unsuccessful, we have the expertise to approach the Courts to obtain the most equitable result for our client.

What will happen when I instruct a drugs offences solicitor?

It’s vital to take early action when you discover that you’re going to be part of a drug offence investigation. By doing so, you can put yourself in the best possible position with regards to achieving a positive outcome.

You will feel a lot more at ease about the situation as you’ll know that we are handling it for you. We have a specialist team who are very up to date on benefits rules and regulations.

Arrest & Interview

At the outset of an investigation of this nature, it is commonplace for the police to seize all of your electronic devices for analysis. We understand you will feel a sense of embarrassment with such levels of intrusion into your privacy. They may be seized for weeks, months and sometimes even longer.

It’s critical that you do not attend any police interviews or take part in any communication with the police without having a legal representative with you. The police are trained in how to trick people into incriminating themselves. Their primary goal is to get a conviction and you could fall foul of some of the psychological tricks that are played. With a lawyer, it’s possible to demand to know whether there is further evidence that the police have against you that you are unaware of.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today.

In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.

Please Contact Us and ask to speak to our drug offences lawyers and possession with intent to supply solicitors to arrange a meeting in person, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can WhatsApp us from the link you will find at the bottom banner if you open this page on your mobile phone device.

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