This offence is significantly more serious than the offence of being found in possession of drugs only. The additional two elements here are that you had the drug for the purposes of either selling it or supplying it to someone else. While you might be aware of the offence of selling drugs, you’re probably not as aware that the offence of Sale or Supply is made out where you have decided to buy drugs to consume with your friends at a party i.e. where you are “merely” handing out drugs to close friends at a party. A conviction for Sale or Supply naturally attracts a custodial sentence and this is the benchmark from which most Judges proceed.
While the moral culpability is somewhat lessened for possession of drugs where the intended recipients are your friends, most people are not aware that if the Gardai have searched your house under a warrant and have found drugs, they can usually determine right away whether you were selling drugs to total strangers (very unlikely) or had the items to share with your friends (likely).
The Drugs Search.
Often, people who have never been in trouble before become overwhelmed by the sight of Gardai searching their home or apartment and are eager to assist the Gardai, as they have been caught red-handed. The Gardai usually adopt the approach of putting questions to you, suggesting scenarios and inviting you to comment.
If you’ve never been in trouble before how did the Gardai know that you had drugs in your property in the first place? Often this involves nothing more than searching someone on the side of the road who has been given the drugs by you. Faced with arrest and prosecution most people in this scenario opt to voluntarily disclose to the Gardai where they obtained the substance from. This then is how Gardai come to your address: somebody told them about what you had given them. In the majority of occasions, the Gardai will never even have heard about you or know anything about you. The Gardai are not obliged to disclose to you who told them that you had drugs. This issue has been litigated in court over the years. The identity of the informant will always remain anonymous.
Garda Tactics to Induce Admissions of Guilt.
If they fail to find lists of people who you are selling drugs to (“tick lists”), weighing scales to divide the drugs into saleable quantities or plastic bags (“wraps”) into which the substance is to be presumably sold, the Gardai will then usually put forward a scenario and invite you to respond e.g. “Were you selling it or were you just going to give the stuff to your friends?” This question is a trap.
In this scenario (and variations of this appear in the majority of cases like this which come to court) the Garda are offering two alternatives to you. The first alternative suggests that you were selling drugs to total strangers, the conventional description of what it is to be regarded as a drug dealer, an association that none of us wish to be connected with. Almost everyone questioned rejects this scenario.
The second alternative suggests a lesser degree of moral culpability, in the sense that the intended recipients were friends of yours and not complete strangers. This alternative is framed (tone of voice by the Garda here is important) in a rather sympathetic, understanding manner, as if you were just “helping” your friends. Faced with both alternatives the natural reaction of most people is to seek to try to reduce their moral culpability by agreeing with the second alternative, that they were not selling the items to total strangers, but instead only had them for themselves and their immediate friends.
Now the trap is closed. What the Gardai have done (and this approach is one approved by practitioners of the infamous “Reid Technique” favoured by police forces around the world) is to offer you two alternatives, one of which sounds more morally and legally justifiable than the other. What you may not realise is that while one suggestion is certainly worse than the other, both scenarios (selling to strangers or giving to your friends) have the same degree of criminal liability. The strict wording of the offence is: “having in your possession for the purposes of sale or otherwise supply”. It does not matter whether you were intending to sell to strangers or give to your friends. Either scenario makes you guilty of the offence of Sale or Supply.
By framing the question in a way that seems to offer a lesser of two evils, the Gardai have cleverly channelled you down the path of supposed lesser culpability (people normally opt for this scenario) and in so doing have still managed to get you to prove their case for them.
Experience has shown that faced with this “good option/bad option” scenario, many people are very eager to agree with the “good” proposition (that they had the substance for use only among their friends) and are often very eager to sign the Garda’s notebook to this effect, thereby making the prosecution case against them virtually airtight.
If you’ve been caught in possession of drugs you will be summoned to court. That’s a relative certainty. Considerations about the future are foremost in your mind. If this event is one which has caused you distress, there are steps that can be taken now to help mitigate the seriousness of the charge when the inevitable court appearance arrives.
Drug treatment on its own is not a “magic cure.” Judges are inherently sceptical and need reassurance. They’ve heard every conceivable excuse that smarter people than you or I have concocted and as a result need a lot of convincing. If you’re willing to work hard and attend counselling and embark on a course of urinalysis you’re helping to give yourself a fighting chance in court.
Experience has shown that the people who refuse to engage in Urinalysis or meaningful counselling by setting out reasons why they cannot do either (e.g. expense involved, lack of time, inadequate transport links etc) are people who are still using drugs and very likely know that any urinalysis report will indicate that this is the case. Faced with this prospect they usually refuse to engage in either counselling (a reputable counsellor respected by the Courts will able to detect that drug use is still a major issue) or urinalysis (which will scientifically show that drugs are still be consumed). The problem with making excuses like these is that you are indicating to the court that you are still using drugs and that you are not prepared to do the work necessary to avoid a conviction.