Thank you for visiting Federal Drug Charges.net. The the American justice system, the states have large areas of responsibility for the enforcement of criminal drug laws, and the federal government also has many responsibilities. At times, these areas will overlap, and the two government agencies then need to work together to decide if a criminal will be charged on a state or federal level for a drug crime. In some cases, the accused can be charged at the state level, and then the federal level at a later time.
Both federal and state drug laws make it a crime to possess, distribute or traffic in illegal controlled substances, including:
Generally speaking, the drug charges filed at the federal level are more serious than those that are filed at the state level. And, the penalties in federal crime cases usually are going to be more harsh as well. 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, you 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
SEE THIS CHART
Also, the US States Sentencing Commission weighs the history of the accused against the nature of the alleged offense. It then puts criminals into these zones for sentencing:
- Zone A, with a sentence from 0-6 months
- Zone B, with a sentence from 1-15 months
- Zone C, with a sentence from 10 months to 18 months
- Zone D, with a sentence from 15 months to life
Mandatory Minimum Sentences
As stated above, some federal crimes have mandatory minimum sentences in place that give the judge in the case limited discretion to determine the length of your sentence. These policies originally were designed to ensure that hardened criminals receive the justice they deserve for their crimes. But in recent years, these laws have gotten much scrutiny, as they often end up giving a long prison sentence for relatively minor offenses.
Typical mandatory minimum sentences often apply in drug crimes and can be from five to ten years.
The federal government uses a uniform sentencing code to determine the appropriate punishments for federal convictions.
What Happens If You Are Arrested for a Federal Drug Crime?
First, you will be told by the federal government that federal charges are being filed. In most cases, you will be detained in federal custody until at least your preliminary hearing.
The preliminary hearing has to be held within 72 hours of your arrest. But many attorneys ask for a continuance of this time limit so they have more time to ready your defense. This hearing is your first chance to challenge what the federal government is saying you did. The burden of proof on the federal government in this hearing is low; all they need to show is probable cause, not beyond a reasonable doubt.
The detention hearing happens when someone is held on federal charges and they request to be released as the case is being decided. Several issues will determine if you will be released on bond or not. If you are an illegal alien or a non-US citizen, you are not as likely to get bond. Also, if you have outstanding warrants or state charges are pending against you, you probably will not get a bond.
The judge will determine if you should be released by considering the above factors, and also:
- What are your ties to the community?
- What is your criminal history?
- What is the nature of the charge?
- Might you be dangerous?
- Was there a victim of the alleged crime?
How To Better Chances of Getting a Federal Bond?
A major thing that you can do to increase your chances is to have your attorney call character witnesses during the hearing. They should be able to testify truthfully and favorably about your character. Your witnesses also should be ready to explain where you would stay and if you have a safe place to stay that is free of drugs and other criminal influences. Also, if your witnesses have any pending criminal issues themselves, these will need to be resolved before they can testify on your behalf.
Interesting Facts About Federal Crimes
- Most offenders do their crimes alone
- 86% are men
- Are 36 years old on average
Tips for Federal Drug Charges
If you are facing federal drug charges of any kind, you are strongly advised to seek the counsel of an attorney that is well versed in federal law. Procedure rules and evidence at the federal level can differ a good deal from state courts, so a regular criminal lawyer may not be able to mount an adequate defense on your behalf.
Be aware that most federal drug cases have a long period of investigation and evidence collection, so the conviction rate on these cases is very high. Consulting with a highly experienced federal criminal attorney is essential for a successful defense.