Under the American justice system, both states and the federal government have large areas of responsibility for the enforcement of criminal drug laws. At times, these areas will overlap, and the two government agencies may work together to decide if a defendant will be charged at a state or federal level for a drug crime. However, a defendant can be charged at the state level and at federal level in separate court proceeding for the same actions.
Both federal and state drug laws make it a crime to possess, distribute or traffic in illegal controlled substances, including:
Generally speaking, drug charges filed at the federal level are more serious than those that are filed at the state level. The federal drug penalties are usually more severe. Some federal crimes have a mandatory minimum sentence of five or ten years in federal prison.
Types of Federal Drug Charges
A federal drug crime can be charged when the drug offenses occur on federal property, or when the alleged crime involves an undercover federal agent. The most common way that federal drug charges are brought is in a case of drug trafficking or distribution. This commonly involves large amounts of drugs, and frequently involves interstate commerce.
The most common federal drug charges include:
· Simple drug possession: Possession of controlled substances without a prescription. Often charged at the state level if there was no intent to distribute
· Drug trafficking: Manufacturing, distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute illegal drugs
· Drug manufacturing: Running an operation for the purpose of manufacturing or distributing illegal drugs; involves large amounts of drugs and distribution paraphernalia
· Drug conspiracy: Attempting and the promoting/facillitating of the manufacture, distribution or importation of narcotics. Government must prove that you were aware of the conspiracy
· Protected location offenses: Distributing illegal drugs to people under the age of 21 or in a school zone; you also can be charged with this crime if you used people under 18 to sell drugs
Most commonly, you will get charged with a federal drug crime if:
· You are caught selling or manufacturing illegal drugs
· You are caught by a federal agent or on a federal piece of property
· You are caught by a federal informant
· The state and federal prosecutors have agreed to try you at the federal level
Federal Drug Conspiracy
Being charged with a drug conspiracy is one of the more common ways that alleged drug offenders are charged with a federal crime.
The government must prove three elements to successfully prosecute such a case:
· There must have been an agreement to violate a drug law
· It must be proven that each conspirator knew about the agreement
· There must have been one act taken to further the conspiracy
Federal Drug Crime Penalties
If you are convicted of the federal drug charges you are facing, the sentence that you receive will vary depending upon the exact nature of the offense. Crimes that resulted in death or serious injury obviously will receive harsher penalties. Also, whether or not you have a criminal record will have an effect on the severity of your sentence.
Federal law states that it is illegal to manufacture, sell or possess illegal substances, and the penalties depend very much on the amount of drugs involved. If the alleged crime involves one kilo or more of cocaine, 10+ grams of LSD, 1,0000+ kilos of marijuana or more than 50 grams of meth, may will get a 10 year to life sentence.
If there is death or serious injury involved, you can get 20 years to life. You also can get as much as a $4 million fine.
If the conviction involves 100 grams+ of heroin, 500+ grams of cocaine, 1+ gram of LSD, 100+ kilos of marijuana, or 5+ grams of meth, the sentence will be from five to 40 years. If there was death or serious injury, the sentence can be 20 years to life with a fine as high as $2 million.
Federal Drug Crime Sentencing
· Federal drug laws have minimum and maximum sentences, which is based upon the amount and the type of drug. According to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, these factors are considered, as well as:
· Whether the offense harmed another person
· Whether there was a weapon involved
· The criminal history of the accused
Many factors are considered for the prosecution of federal drug crimes, including the action and type of drug, as well as the quantity of the drug involved, the criminal background of the defendant, and the involvement of minors.