When Does a Drug Crime Become a Federal Offense?

With proposed criminal reforms and challenges to mandatory sentencing making headlines over the past year, we at Suzuki Law Offices would like to address some of the particulars of drug crimes. In this blog, we will discuss what types of offenses are classified as federal crimes and how they are sentenced under the nation’s mandatory minimum laws.

Difference Between State & Federal Drug Cases

Federal drug charges are typically reserved for more serious drug cases, such as those involving trafficking across state lines, cultivation and manufacture, and criminal enterprises trafficking drugs. 

Whether a drug case is prosecuted by the federal government depends on:

  • If a federal law enforcement agency is involved at any stage of the case, from the investigation to the arrest. Even if a federal informant tipped off local police, your case may end up being a federal one. 
  • If state or country borders are being crossed. Even for a possession charge, your case could involve the federal government if you crossed state lines legally.
  • If the property you were caught on is under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

Both state and federal laws make it a crime to possess, distribute, or traffic large quantities of illegal controlled substances. However, federal drug charges are much more serious than those filed at the state level, and come with much harsher penalties. Federal crimes have a mandatory prison sentence of up to ten years in prison for a conviction.

Will I Be Facing Federal Drug Charges?

Examples of when you will likely be facing federal drug charges:

  • You are caught manufacturing or selling illegal substances
  • You are caught on federal property
  • You are caught by an undercover federal agent or federal informant
  • You are caught trafficking or distributing illicit substances (usually involving large amounts of drugs that are transported over state lines)
  • You are accused of drug conspiracy
  • State and federal prosecutors have agreed to try you at the federal level

Penalties & Sentencing For Federal Drug Crimes

Federal drug convictions currently come with mandatory sentencing under the law (although reform may be imminent). These sentences are based upon the type and amount of the drug involved, as well as whether any weapons were involved and the accused person’s criminal history.

If the offense involves 1,000+ kilos of marijuana, one+ kilo of cocaine, 50+ grams of meth, or 10+ grams of LSD, an individual will face 10 years to life in prison. If serious injury or death occurs in connection with the crime, that minimum can be increased to 20 years and possibly include a fine of up to $4 million.

Offenses involving 100+ kilos of marijuana, 500+ grams of cocaine, 5+ grams of meth, or 1+ gram LSD come with prison sentences of five to 40 years, with the possibility of 20 years to life in prison if the crime resulted in injury or death. Fines for these offenses can be up to $2 million.

Experienced & Effective Defense for Federal Crimes

As a former prosecutor, Attorney Richard Suzuki of Suzuki Law Offices, L.L.C. has extensive experience handling both federal and state-level drug offenses. If you have been arrested in connection with a drug crime, or if you suspect that you are under investigation, you owe it to yourself to contact a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer at our firm. Our lead attorney has achieved successful results in even the most complex cases, including everything from conspiracy cases to multi-million dollar drug cases. You can be confident in our ability to represent you effectively, skillfully, and aggressively.

The longer you wait to call, the more you put you freedom at risk. Call us today at (602) 842-6762 to begin speaking with a lawyer about your case.

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