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Conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance 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 Conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance in 2024?

Conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance is an offence that can often lead to a crime committed with an interception at airports and ports. This crime can manifest in many ways. In some cases, travellers plan how to return home from a holiday with ‘leftover holiday drugs’ from a country where there is more widely accepted tolerance of the drug. In other cases, it’s a situation of organised crime as people carry controlled substances on behalf of suppliers.

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On occasion, it can be a matter of planning to traffic large quantities of a drug. However, whatever the reason, the courts don’t take these types of offences lightly, and there can be severe consequences. This offence is under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and paired with the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

The crime of conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance can come with a severe sentence. The sentence will reflect what your role was, your level of cooperation with the authorities and the amount of the drugs involved.

Anybody who finds themselves being investigated, under arrest or charged with conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance, will be feeling very worried about what might happen next. At a time like this, it’s vital to your finances,  future career options and personal and professional reputations that you take legal advice from an experienced drugs solicitor.

The truth is, having a criminal record tied to your name can mean having to face adverse difficulties such as having trouble securing future jobs, loans and other opportunities. There may be imprisonment involved, which will make it challenging to provide a consistent income to support your property affairs and dependents.

In brief, we have listed some of the questions asked by our conspiracy to traffic controlled substance clients, along with answers, and we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines. It’s important to note that an accomplished and field-proven criminal solicitor may be able to get your sentence reduced or in some cases, avoided entirely.

More about the conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance offence

The term ‘conspiracy’ means to agree, but it has a broad interpretation when it comes to the law. The reason for this broad interpretation is the word is not defined by legislation. The offence of conspiracy is not about performing the act of committing the planned crime, but of planning the crime.

Here are some examples of conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance that may have led to the situation that you or your loved one now find themselves in. Controlled substances may be narcotics, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and anabolic steroids.

The actions of conspirators that can result in prosecution include:

Planning to carry a large number of controlled drugs in a suitcase from abroad – although the actual act of travelling with a bag is not an offence, planning to pack it with controlled substances and manage the delivery of such is.

Being involved in planning the transportation of drugs to the airport – even if you’re not planning to carry the drugs from one country to another, the mere act of organising the crime could see you charged with conspiracy.

Planning who will participate in the trafficking of drugs – this includes proposing who will do what to courier, manage, sell or distribute the controlled substances such as anabolic steroids.

You don’t need to have the substances in your possession to be prosecuted for conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance. Therefore, it’s essential to seek expert legal advice immediately.

What is the average sentence for conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance?  

When the Judge decides on what sentence are to receive for a convicted conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance offence, various considerations are part of that decision. For example, what was the role did you play, what was the amount of substance and it’s type in addition to how well the individual cooperates with the police.

Sentences can range from a few years for just a small quantity to life imprisonment, depending on circumstances.

The punishment for the offence of conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance will be in alignment with the judgement of the Court based on the damage or harm caused or what may have potentially been caused.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance offence for sentencing purposes?

If you are accused of conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance, you will no doubt be concerned about what sentence you’ll receive. Being separated from family can be devastating, and not being able to provide for loved ones can be very distressing.

There are several factors involved in deciding what your sentence should be. We have taken an excerpt from the Sentencing Guidelines to give you an understanding of what factors are taken into consideration when determining what punishment should be issued to a person convicted of this crime.

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 a non-commercial basis.

As explained above, every case is unique, and there is no guarantee on what the outcome might be. However, the general process should be that you appoint an experienced legal representative as soon as you are informed that you are being charged. You can then take advice on how to navigate the case that could be complex and frightening.

Once the legal representative talks with you, they will be able to examine what evidence there is against you. Your lawyer can then either work on having your charge dismissed or have it reduced to a lesser charge.

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance sentence?

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. The following are some of the other factors considered when the Court decides which sentence to give in cases of conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance. They will look at:

  • Your previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was initially legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any severe 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

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance with a guilty plea?

In recent years, many changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time, 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. However, the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge, who has the 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 trial. In theory, the ten per cent 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 essential 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 conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance offence?

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.

The range of ancillary orders for conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance offence convictions include the following:

·         An injunction to prevent drug dealing

·         Confiscation order

·         Restraint or cash seizure orders

·         Victim’s surcharge

Also, 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.

How sentences can be added to national information databases

Several national databases 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 conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance, 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 severe 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

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

Being charged, arrested or interviewed about a conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance offence can be very frightening. Even being caught conspiring to traffic the smallest quantity of drug can often mean an extended sentence in prison.

Fortunately, Stuart Miller Solicitors sets the standard in defending drug-related conspiracy cases. Our lawyers have been providing sound legal advice on how to navigate the complexities of drug conspiracy legalities for over thirty years.

Our proven legal expertise is demonstrated in the number of acquittals and reduced sentences that we secure for our clients.

Thirty years in the business means that we have also developed a remarkable network of legal professionals who provide us with support on every case that we take on. Our support comes from some of the best Barristers to QCs to forensic analysts who all contribute to weakening any argument put forward by the prosecution. We’re proud of our ability to guide you every step of the way to the best possible outcome.

What will happen when I instruct a drugs conspiracy lawyer?

We’re always at your service. You can turn to us in confidence to provide you with the support you need to get through the initial police interview for your conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance right through to any potential trial. In many cases, we have managed to get the case dismissed before it reaches Court.

Our first step will be to work with you to understand more about your case and your unique situation. We will then demand to see all evidence that the prosecution may have on you so that we can look for flaws, failings and discrepancies.

Once you have us on your side, you’ll feel far more at ease about what the outcome may be. Our commitment to our clients is unsurpassed, and you can count on us to be there for you, no matter the situation.

Arrest & Interview

It’s incredibly essential for anybody being interviewed by the police to have a qualified criminal lawyer accompanying them. The police are trained to use a variety of tactics to secure convictions, and they will be using these in your conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance case.

The police are also likely to pursue a search warrant from the courts to examine your home, workplace and vehicle. Your personal effects and communications will be rummaged and analysed for further evidence.

The Stuart Miller Solicitors legal team are sharp, high-energy and hard-hitting with defence strategies. They pride themselves in outperforming their legal opponents.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

You are invited to connect with us for a free thirty-minute consultation about your conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance case. During this time, you can express your concerns, ask questions and generally feel better about your situation. Once you have us on your side, you’ll feel a sense of relief as Stuart Miller Solicitors sets the industry standard for legal defence.

Complete our contact form or call us today on 07980 000 076. Our 24/7 emergency number is 07980 000 076.

Get in touch with us now for conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance legal help.



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