From pop culture TV shows to recent ballot measures, it seems that drugs are part of a national conversation. While some state laws are relaxing their hold on some drugs, things at the federal level are a little slower to move. That means understanding the legal side of drugs can be complicated. Illegal drugs, from marijuana to addictive prescriptions, are everywhere.
Having a base understanding of federal drug laws could mean staying out of trouble. If you do find yourself accused of a federal drug crime, you’ll want to meet with a criminal defense attorney to help navigate the complicated road ahead.
Here’s what you need to know about federal crimes related to drugs.
Each state has different laws regarding the possession of illegal drugs. These laws often depend on the specific drug in question and the amount found.
It is unlawful at both the state and federal law to possess certain controlled substances like cocaine, methamphetamines, or heroin. And while some states have relaxed regulations on or have even decriminalized the use of marijuana, there are still plenty of states that consider pot to be highly illegal.
Being caught in possession of an illegal substance could lead to an arrest. In some cases, the charge of possession could be extended to possession with intent to distribute. Typically, the charge of having the intention to distribute requires possessing a large quantity of drugs.
Drug paraphernalia is pretty much any equipment that is used to prepare, inhale, inject, ingest or hide illegal drugs. The definition can also be expanded to equipment that works to conceal or create unlawful drugs. It is against the law to sell, import, or export any kind of drug paraphernalia, including bongs, individual styles of pipes, rolling papers, syringes, and more.
One of the challenges of charging a suspect with having drug paraphernalia is that most items that fall into the category can also be used for legal purposes. For example, bongs and rolling papers can be used to smoke tobacco legally. Syringes, as another example, are not uncommon with certain medications.
Merely having a piece of equipment in itself is often not enough to be arrested, but context clues can also be used to infer that paraphernalia is being used for illegal purposes.
Being involved in any step of making an illegal drug is considered drug manufacturing. This is a crime at both the state and federal level. Even finding specific equipment or paraphernalia is enough to prove the intent to manufacture.
Marijuana is one exception. Even though it is still illegal at the federal level, different states have different laws regarding growing, cultivating, and processing this substance.
Check with your local laws to know what is allowed and how the process is controlled.
Selling, transporting, and importing illegal substances, like cocaine, is a felony. This crime is considered much more severe than merely possessing large amounts of drugs. Being in possession of a large quantity of illegal drugs may lead the police to believe there is a plan to traffic the substance.
Dealing drugs differs from trafficking mostly in the amount being sold. Dealing typically involves smaller amounts, while trafficking is generally associated with large quantities. Different states can have slightly different definitions to determine if someone is dealing or trafficking.
The Difference Between State and Federal Drug Offenses
In general, you cannot be charged with both a state and federal law at the same time. It is possible to be charged at one level and then moved to a different level as the investigation unfolds. Since laws can vary state to state, you must check with an attorney for drug charges if you have any questions or are accused of violating a law at either level.
Here are some of the top instances where you can be charged with a federal drug crime:
- Incident took place on federal property, including national parks.
- Activity crossed state lines
- You are investigated by a federal agency, such as the DEA.
- The drug activity is tied to other federal offenses, like money laundering.
- Activity involving large quantities.
What are the consequences of federal drug charges?
The results of a federal drug conviction vary depending on the severity of the infraction. Trafficking more serious drugs will have more severe punishments than dealing with a small amount of federal property.
The results can include jail time, significant fines, and other penalties, like the loss of personal property and real estate to pay fines. While there are differing levels of severity in the punishment, no outcome is a simple slap on the wrist. If you have a case going to federal court, you need to take it seriously and seek appropriate counsel.
Federal drug charges require serious help
Once charges make it to the federal level, you need highly trained and experienced federal drug lawyers on your side. A good defense against federal drug case involves a comprehensive strategy. It starts with challenging unlawful searches and investigates if drugs were planted, testimonies are flawed, faulty lab results, and more.
How do I find the best federal drug attorney near me?
If you’re under investigation or have already been indicted in federal court, you need an attorney right away. There may be plenty of attorneys out there who can handle a multitude of issues, but you want someone with experience in the area of your case. You also want someone who has trial experience so that they aren’t inclined to pressure you to take a plea bargain. Some kind of deal may be in your best interest, but you need a lawyer who will provide you with the best options and then fight towards your decision.
While it might seem like hiring a criminal defense attorney is too expensive, you should consider the cost of not having the appropriate help. Public defenders are overworked and cannot put in the time you deserve. More importantly, the potential fines and jail time are going to cost you far more. When meeting with potential federal drug attorneys, ask about and understand their payment options and how it all works.
There is no benefit to going it alone. If you have been accused of violating federal drug laws, you need robust, a professional representation that can help you win your case.