The federal and state governments oftentimes work in conjunction with one another when dealing with criminal drug law enforcement, especially when these two entities overlap. This need to work together is attributed to deciding whether the criminal should be charged for these crimes at the federal or the state level. In most cases, the individual will initially be charged by the state. However, they may also be charged by the Federal Government.
The abuse, cultivation, distribution, manufacturing, possession, and/or trafficking of illegal controlled substances is a crime and includes
- “Club drugs”
- Any other controlled substance
Although every state has their own set of drug laws, the US Government has combatted the abuse, distribution, and trafficking of illegal drugs through the use of longstanding strategies for decades.
A Word About Local, Federal, And State Drug Laws
According to Nolo.com, accidental death and injuries, criminal behavior, health care, and other issues that are alcohol and drug related are now costing US society well over $110 billion annually. Furthermore, the possession of marijuana comprises over 50% of those charges that occur at the local or state level. For all intents and purposes, federal criminal drug charges are more serious than those that occur at the state level. The severity of the consequences resulting from federal drug charges and the penalties for them will be harsher than state-related charges.
The Relationship Between Drugs And Criminal Behavior
Nearly 20 years ago, the US Department of Justice published information regarding criminal behavior and how it is directly related to illegal drugs. These substances are directly related to criminal acts by the way in which they affect the user’s behavior or how they generate illegal actions and violence. In addition to this, the HHS or US Department of Health and Human Services concluded that drug users are more likely to commit crimes compared to those individuals who do not use drugs.
The DOJ document goes on to say that there are certain statistical assumptions that can be made where the relationship between criminal behavior and drugs is concerned. It includes the following:
- Individuals arrested for a drug-related crime oftentimes test positive for an illegal substance and/or have used that substance recently
- Many individuals support their drug habits by committing crimes
- Violent crime is generated by the distribution or trafficking of illegal drugs
- When individuals are arrested and incarcerated for a drug-related crime, they were oftentimes under the influence of one or more controlled substances
It is important to remember that these are assumptions based on past evidence. Any such assumptions should be approached with an open mind as interpretation is oftentimes difficult.
The Most Common Types Of Drug Charges
Most of the criminal drug cases handled by the justice systems at the local, state, and federal levels involve the cultivation and/or manufacturing, distribution and/or trafficking, and the possession of illegal substances. The following are the most common charges:
- Cultivation/Manufacturing – Federal and state laws apply to cultivating and manufacturing illegal drugs. Cultivation refers to the growing, possessing, or producing of illegal controlled substances. Manufacturing refers to the use of chemical processes or a laboratory for the creation or production of controlled substances. Drugs such as cocaine, LSD, and meth are examples of illegally manufactured controlled substances.
- Distribution and Trafficking – Although these charges are similar, there are certain differences to be aware of. When an individual is accused of illegally delivering, providing, or selling any controlled substances, he is charged with distribution. However, the illegal distribution and/or sale of such substances results in a charge of trafficking.
- Possession – Where local and state laws are concerned, possession of a controlled substance is typically the most common of all criminal charges. The possession of illegal drugs without a prescription is referred to as “simple possession” without the intent to distribute. At the federal level, the government must prove that the individual did not have a valid prescription, had a sufficient quantity of the drug for sale and/or use, and intentionally and knowingly possessed an illegal controlled substance
Possession charges are classified as either actual or “constructive” in nature. In this case, constructive means that if the individual has access to or controls the location where drugs are located, he or she can be charged despite not having the drugs on their person.
In addition to the charges listed above, there are two others that are commonly witnessed in the American justice system – drug conspiracy and protected location offenses. Drug conspiracy refers to any attempt to distribute, import, or manufacture illegal substances as well as the facilitation or promotion of such activities. Protected location offenses refer to distributing illegal drugs in a school zone or selling them to individuals under 21 years of age. If an individual uses someone under 18 years of age to sell illegal drugs, they can also be charged with a protected location offense.