Almost anything to do with holding drugs is illegal - holding, selling, transporting, and growing and so on - except where you have a doctor’s prescription. Important special cases: if Gardaí think you’re holding too much for your own use, that becomes possession with intent to supply, which is bad news for you; giving drugs to people (even passing joints at a party) is technically dealing; and allowing drugs offences on your property is an offence in itself. As you might guess, the vast majority of drug arrests are for possession.
The following is an extract from the government information detailed at http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/justice/criminal_law/criminal_offences/drug_offences.html . There is a lot here so if the very specific cases don’t apply to you, ie: charged with dealing etc then just skip on, but it does make for interesting reading.
Role of the Customs and Excise service in combating drug trafficking
The Customs and Excise services are responsible for detecting and seizing controlled drugs at importation. There is close co-operation between the Gardai and the Custom and Excise services in the area of drug law enforcement and a joint task force involving the Gardai, the Customs and Excise Services and the Naval Services has been set up. These bodies liaise at a local level to prevent drug trafficking. The Customs and Excise services are involved in the Multi-Disciplinary Group on Organised Crime and are also very involved in the operation of the Criminal Assets Bureau with the Gardai. The Customs National Drug Team was set up by the Revenue Commissioners in 1992 to tackle the illegal importation of drugs into Ireland.
Customs National Drug Team
The Customs National Drug Team (CNDT) concentrates solely on combating the importation of illegal drugs into Ireland. The CNDT has a staff of 85 staff, consisting of a Head Office located in Dublin and intelligence units, operational units, maritime units and drug detector dog units that are strategically placed at all major ports and airports and at various coastal locations nation-wide. All CNDT units are mobile and can be deployed to other locations as necessary. The CNDT is supported by some 640 outfield officials who are also responsible for the detection and prevention of drug smuggling as part of their normal duties.
Possession of controlled drugs - cannabis or cannabis resin
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1984, anyone found in possession of cannabis or cannabis resin is guilty of an offence. If the court decides that the drug was for personal use and not for sale or distribution and this was a first offence, it can impose a fine not exceeding 381 euro on summary conviction in a District Court. On conviction on indictment, the defendant can be fined 635 euro. For a second offence, a fine not exceeding 508 euro may be imposed and on conviction on indictment, a fine of 1,270 euro can be imposed. For a third or subsequent conviction, a fine not exceeding 1,270 euro can be imposed. If the court decides, a prison sentence of not more than 12 months can be imposed as well. On conviction on indictment, the court may decide on an appropriate fine and/or a prison sentence of up to three years can be imposed.
Possession of any other controlled drugs
It is an offence to be in possession of a controlled drug and on summary conviction for this offence, you could be liable for a fine not exceeding 1,270 euro or a prison sentence of no longer than 12 months. If the court decides, you could be liable for both. On conviction on indictment for possessing controlled drugs, the court can decide on an appropriate fine and you could also be liable for a prison sentence of not more than seven years. Again, if the court decides, you could be liable for both.
Growing cannabis plants or opium poppies
It is also an offence to grow cannabis plants or opium poppies and on summary conviction for this offence, you could be liable for a fine not exceeding 1,270 euro or a prison sentence of no longer than 12 months. If the court decides, you could be liable for both. On conviction on indictment for growing these plants, the court can decide on an appropriate fine and you could also be liable for a prison sentence of not more than 14 years. Again, if the court decides, you could be liable for both.
Regulations regarding opium
It is an offence to use prepared opium (e.g., heroin) for illegal use, to go to a place for the purposes of using opium or to have any paraphernalia (pipes, utensils) associated with illegal opium use in your possession. On summary conviction for this offence, you could be liable for a fine not exceeding 1,270 euro or a prison sentence of no longer than 12 months. If the court decides, you could be liable for both. On conviction on indictment for this offence, the court can decide on an appropriate fine and you could also be liable for a prison sentence of no more than 14 years. Again, if the court decides, you could be liable for both.
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1984, it is an offence to be in possession of a controlled drug with the intention of selling it illegally. Anyone found guilty of this offence can be fined up to 1,270 euro on summary conviction in a District Court. It the court decides, he or she could be subject to a fine and a prison term not exceeding 12 months. On conviction on indictment for this offence, the court can decide on an appropriate fine. The court can also impose a life sentence for this offence if it decides it is necessary. However, lesser sentences can also be imposed, either with a fine or alone.
Forged or fraudulently altered prescriptions
It is an offence to forge a prescription or to try to change it in any way in order to deceive. Anyone found guilty of this offence is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding 508 euro or a prison sentence not exceeding six months. If the court decides, you could be liable for both. On conviction on indictment for this offence, the court can decide on an appropriate fine and/or impose a prison term not exceeding three years.
Court-ordered drug treatment
For some drugs offences, (illegal possession of controlled drugs, possession of controlled drugs for unlawful sale or supply, breaking the regulations regarding opium, growing opium poppies or cannabis plants or forging or fraudulently altering prescriptions), the court may decide that imposing the usual penalties is not the most effective response. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977, the court can remand you for whatever period it considers necessary (no longer than eight days if you are being held in custody). During this time, the court can ask a health board, a Probation and Welfare officer or other qualified person to prepare a medical report and/or a report on your vocational, educational and social circumstances. They may also be asked to make recommendations for your treatment.
Based on the findings of these reports, the court may decide not to impose a fine or prison sentence on you. Instead, you may be placed under the supervision of a named person or body (such as a health board) for a specified period of time or you may be required to get the kind of treatment (medical or otherwise) that has been recommended for you. The court may also order that you complete a course of education, instruction or training that will improve your job prospects or social circumstances, facilitate your social rehabilitation or reduce the likelihood of you committing further drugs offences.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, the court may order that you be detained in a specialised custodial treatment centre. The period you can be held for depends on your offence. You cannot be held for longer than a year, but if the maximum period of imprisonment that the court may impose for your particular crime is shorter than a year, you can only be held for that period of time.
If the court decides it is in your best interests, you may not be allowed to see the contents of any report that has been prepared on your case. However, the report will be made available to your barrister or solicitor. If you ignore an order of the court, you can be detained in a custodial treatment centre or have the usual penalties for your offence (fines and/or imprisonment) imposed on you.
If you have been sent to a custodial treatment centre by a court order, you can make an application to the court that detention is no longer in your best interest or in the best interests of other people at the centre. Based on this application, the court can review your case and revoke the detention order. It then has a number of options open to it. If the court decides that you are still in need of treatment, it can order your continued detention, possibly in another treatment centre. If custodial treatment is not considered necessary, you may be ordered to continue treatment but not on a custodial basis. The court can also decide to impose the usual penalties (prison sentence and/or fine) under the Misuse of Drugs Act for your offence if it considers it appropriate to do so. This will depend on the circumstances of your case and if a prison sentence is imposed, the court must take into account the amount of time you have already been detained in a treatment centre. The court also has the option of not imposing any penalty if it is satisfied that you are no longer in need of treatment and that the circumstances of your case do no warrant further penalties.
How to apply
If you are unable to contact the Head Office of the Customs National Drug Team by phone, you can download the Customs Drug Watch Report Form here and send it by FREEPOST to the Customs National Drug Team's Head Office. You can read more about the (pdf)Customs Drug Watch service here (also includes contact information for local Drugs Watch Officers).
Where to apply
Customs National Drugs Team,
14 Lord Edward Street,
Freephone: 1800 295 295
IN BRIEF: A Garda may, if they have reason to suspect a person is in possession of a controlled drug, search them and, if they really deem it necessary, detain them as long as it reasonably takes to complete the search. Likewise they may stop and search any vehicle etc. in pursuit of a controlled drug. A Garda may seize and detain anything found that appears to constitute evidence of an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and 1984. With reasonable cause a person may be arrested if suspected of an offence under these Acts. A warrant is not needed.
If you still have concerns and are looking for more information for yourself then www.spunout.ie is great for student and youth orientated information on drugs awareness and tackling the problem.
NEED MORE DETAILED INFO? A Garda may, if they have reason to suspect a person is in possession of a controlled drug, search them and, if they really deem it necessary, detain them as long as it reasonably takes to complete the search. Likewise they may stop and search any vehicle etc. in pursuit of a controlled drug. A Garda may seize and detain anything found that appears to constitute evidence of an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and 1984. With reasonable cause a person may be arrested if suspected of an offence under these Acts. A warrant is not needed.
The law in general
Picture the scene: you’re stumbling along after a night on the town, perhaps engaging in a spot of tomfoolery with your chums. Then, someone takes this amiable horseplay a bit too far, certain regrettable deeds are done, and before you can say ‘ello, ‘ello, ‘ello, a friendly member of the constabulary lays a meaty hand on your shoulder. Oh dear. You’ve just made the acquaintance of An Garda Síochána. Things like this can happen to anyone, so I’ve included a section here on what to do if you get nicked by the old Bill.
The Gardaí may arrest someone if they reasonably believe that the person has committed a serious offence. Arrest is merely a process by which the Gardai may bring a person before a court of law at the earliest possible opportunity - this is called a common law arrest. There are no general powers to detain for "questioning" or "to help the police with their enquiries" and nobody is obliged to accompany a Garda to the station unless they have been arrested. However, under certain statutes the Gardaí may arrest someone and detain him or her solely for questioning. It is very uncommon for somebody to be arrested with warrants because funnily enough, few crimes are anticipated in advance; what is more common however is:
Arrest without warrant
This occurs when the Gardaí arrest someone under their common-law powers where a felony is committed in their presence or for a breach of the peace.
Most arrests are carried out under specific statutory powers. There are many powers and the important thing is for the arrested person to ask under what power they are being arrested and for what offence. Under the Criminal Justice Act (1984), a person arrested on suspicion of an offence punishable by five years imprisonment, may be detained without charge for 6 hours (12 hours if authorised by a Superintendent), to allow for "proper investigation of the offence". If an arrest is late in the evening, the periods for questioning may be delayed to allow for sleep. Thus the section allows Gardai to arrest someone merely to question them. Under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act (1939), a person arrested is obliged to give their name and address. Under Section 25 of the Act the Gardaí are entitled to question them about any offence even beyond that for which they have been arrested. No more than 24 hours can lapse without charges being brought (or 48 hours if authorised by a Chief Superintendent)
What happens if I am arrested?
There are a number of guidelines to follow if you do find you find yourself being arrested:
Ask to see the Garda’s identification or get his or her number. Try to remember their names.
If the Gardaí compel you to go with them, ask whether or not you are under arrest. If you are, ask to be brought before a court as soon as possible or if you are being detained under a specific statute, to be detained solely for questioning.
You are not obliged to say anything once arrested (See Offences Against the State Act)
Do not resist arrest. If you do, you could be fined for it.
Once in the station, ask to telephone a solicitor immediately. If you do not know one, call the Students’ Union at 6776545 or a friend or family member. There is no right to a solicitor under the Free Legal Aid scheme whilst in custody.
In the Garda Station
Whatever you do, try to remain calm. When you talk to your solicitor or a friend ask them to bring some reading material for you. It is very important not to panic. If you are ill or injured insist on seeing a doctor immediately. The Gardaí must contact your solicitor if you ask them and you are entitled to have a family member informed of where you are being taken. Do not have fingerprints, swabs etc. taken unless you are told by a Garda that you will be committing an offence if you refuse. If you are hungry ask for food. Do not sign anything without your solicitor.
Where a person is arrested and informed of his/her right to resist but does not do so, he or she may be photographed, measured and fingerprinted on the application of an inspector. If he or she does object, he or she may nevertheless be photographed, measured and fingerprinted with the authority of the Minister of Justice or if an Inspector makes an application to a District Justice or the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner of the Garda Síochána. If a person is released from custody or acquitted in subsequent court proceedings all such photographs and prints must be destroyed or returned to the person in question.
The Gardaí are entitled to ask questions but you are not required to answer them, except under the Offences Against the State Act and the Criminal Justice Act. If the Gardai have evidence to connect you with a specific offence they must charge you and caution you. Ask to phone a solicitor or friend.
Do not make any statements unless your solicitor tells you to.
Persons under 17 must be notified of their right to consult a solicitor and his/her parent or guardian must be informed of the detention. Otherwise there is no right of notification bit if you request a solicitor the Gardai are obliged to provide one.
Food and Sleep
You are entitled to be treated well and be provided with food, refreshment and the opportunity to sleep.
Remand in Custody
If arrested and charged you must be brought before the District Court at the earliest opportunity (NB. If you are arrested on Friday evening this could be Monday morning) Failure to do this would make continued detention unlawful.
The Sergeant or other person in charge of the Garda Station is empowered to admit bail to any person who is brought in custody to the station, providing there is no warrant outstanding against the person in question. Remember to ask for bail, as the Gardai will not volunteer this information.
Failure to account for firearms and/or property
Under the Criminal Justice Act, where a Garda finds a person in possession of firearms or property, which the Garda believes to have been stolen, the Gardaí can require the person to give an account of why he or she has the firearm on the property. Failure to comply or giving false information may lead to a fine of £1,000, 12 months imprisonment, or both.
If a Garda finds any object, substance or mark on a person’s clothing or in his/her possession and the person fails to account for such an object the court is entitled, in a subsequent trial to, to draw inferences from his/her failure to account, and to use any failure to account as corroboration for any other evidence.
Stop and Search
Gardai also have a number of powers by which they can stop people and search them either in the street or if they are in a vehicle. The three main such powers are given below:
S30 Offences Against the State Act (1939): Gardaí may stop and search any person suspected of involvement in offences as to which the Act applies.
S8 Criminal Law Act (1976): Gardaí acting on reasonable suspicion may stop a vehicle and search both the vehicle and its occupants with a view to ascertaining whether they are involved in murder, manslaughter, firearms offences, burglary, malicious damage or explosives offences.
S23 Misuse of drugs Act (1977) A Garda, acting on reasonable suspicion may search any person whom he/she has reasonable cause to suspect is in possession of a controlled drug (See drugs section)
N.B TV licence inspectors are not entitled to come into your home without a warrant but they can get one very easily, so be warned!
The Public Order Bill
This bill gives far-reaching powers of arrest to the Gardai in relation to public order issues such as free expression, movement and assembly. The Public Order Bill creates 14 new crimes from offensive behaviour to riot. A number of sections contravene the legal principle that an individual is innocent until proven guilty, thus placing the onus in the defendant to establish this in court. Under Section 5 of the current bill it will be illegal to participate in singing, shouting or boisterous conduct in a public place between the hours of 12pm to 7am or at any other time when requested by a Garda. This contravenes our constitutional right to freedom of expression. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties was particularly critical of this section, describing it as an insulting betrayal of an independent, liberal and self-reliant Irish society. It would lead, the group warned, to many people in Irish society acquiring the life-long slur of a criminal conviction on their character because of perhaps a once-off youthful prank or drunken escapade of a minor nature. This section seeks to gag youthful antics; busking, rapping, dancing and singing in the streets. Another section of the Bill provides for heavy fines for the display of posters, placards or signs or other material that is deemed to be offensive or obscene or an incitement to violence.
The state scheme of civil non-criminal legal aid was introduced in 1980 and makes the service of solicitors and if necessary barristers available to persons of modest income, at low cost. This service includes anything from writing a solicitor’s letter on your behalf to representing you in court proceedings. The service is a little bogged down at the moment - there is a six month waiting list and importantly does not cover every legal option e.g. Small claims, some insurance claims and defamation.
The Civil Legal Aid scheme does not cover criminal cases. In these cases, the Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act, 1962 applies. If the case appears at the District Court, legal aid is granted if the Justice believes:
a person could not afford to pay legal costs, and that "by reason of the gravity of the charge or in exceptional circumstances, it is essential in the interests of justice that he/she should have legal aid."
Essentially it is up to the individual District Justice.
You should contact a legal aid centre for more advice (They are listed amongst the names and address in this section.)
This HSE funded organization is a national body for drug information. They have plenty of information on drugs and help with drugs including harm reduction and safety information.
The National Drug Advisory and Treatment Service, now known asThe Drug Treatment Centre Board (DTCB), was established in 1969 and is the longest established treatment service in the country. It provides effective, high quality and client focused treatment for the population it serves. This is provided in a caring, professional manner in an atmosphere cognisant of the varied individual needs of the client population. It offers guidance and training to other professionals working in the area of substance misuse and contributes to policy development in drug and addiction management
This is a youth resource website that has information on a wide variety of topics including drugs. The information is factual and reasonable so you can find some reliable info here.
An all-Ireland network to promote effective interventions with young people at risk.
- Help you contact Practitioners from all over Ireland
- Help you find out about good practice
- Provide information about a variety of agencies
- Inform you about activities in your area
- Give you the opportunity to influence the work of Breaking Through
Aimed at improving prevention by using the internet. This is the main focus of the Prevnet Network: a European partnership with a high degree of multidisciplinarity. From the perspectives of care, rehabilitation, outreach, research, prevention and education, all Prevnet partners work in the area of addiction problems. The mutual interest is advocacy for telematic methods.
Best Action for Children
The Best Health For Children project was established by the Chief Executive Officers of all the Health Boards under the auspices of the National Conjoint Child Health Committee. The project seeks to facilitate Health Boards in developing services and programmes that have a focus on improving the health of children in Ireland.
Rock and Roll
So now you are armed with about as much information as you need to stay out of trouble (if that is intention of course). I hope you have an absolutely fantastic time while in Trinity –both in college and outside. Do make the most of it because it will fly past and it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
A few final things to remember
¸ Do ask for help – from your lecturers, peers, welfare officer, tutor, counsellors, health centre.
¸ Do get some balance in your life – try to eat properly and get enough sleep, try not to cram and get regular exercise.
¸ Do expect the transition to college to be tough on you and make allowances for yourself
¸ Relax, experience, enjoy and stay safe.