The federal government and all 50 state governments define their own drug crimes and the penalties for conviction thereof. Consequently, if you’re charged with a drug crime, it could be at either the federal or state level.
Each jurisdiction classifies which substances are controlled, and therefore illegal to possess without a prescription. In general, controlled substances are categorized into the following five schedules:
- Schedule I: Heroin, LSD, Marijuana, Methaqualone
- Schedule II: Morphine, PCP, Cocaine
- Schedule III: Anabolic Steroids, Codeine, Hydrocodone, and some Barbiturates
- Schedule IV: Most Benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax
- Schedule V: Over-the-counter cough medicines containing codeine
Marijuana remains an illegal controlled substance at the federal level, despite the fact that 33 states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws, and 15 states have also decriminalized the recreational use of marijuana. However, federal prosecutors almost never charge people with marijuana possession unless it involves a large cultivation operation or interstate trafficking.
Drug Crime Types
In general, the types of drug charges you can face include the following:
- Possession with intent to sell
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
Keep in mind that since each state names and defines its own drug laws, specific charges can vary widely from state to state, even though they pertain to the same offense.
Penalties for conviction of a drug crime vary widely from state to state. Depending on the illegal drug involved and the amount of it prosecutors allege you possessed, cultivated, manufactured, sold, distributed or trafficked, you could face anything from misdemeanor probation to felony life imprisonment if convicted.
In addition, you face a good possibility of being charged with multiple drug offenses. Why? Because proof of any drug crime hinges on proof of your possession, either actual or constructive, of the drug in question. If the prosecutor can establish that, he or she can go on to attempt to prove your cultivation, manufacture, sale, distribution, or trafficking of it. If convicted of multiple drug charges, the judge has the option of instructing that you serve the various prison terms concurrently or consecutively.
Furthermore, enhanced penalties usually apply if you’re convicted of selling or distributing an illegal drug to a minor or in a school zone.
Legal Help Required
Considering the complexity of drug laws, offenses and penalties, your wisest strategy if you find yourself facing drug charges consists of hiring an experienced lawyer, like a criminal defense lawyer from Frederick J. Brynn, P.C.