Federal and state drug cases share many similarities in the underlying charges that an individual may face. However, the punishment and investigation process is drastically different. As at the state level, the most common drug crime is simple possession. Federal law and law enforcement also have jurisdiction in trafficking cases where controlled substances are brought across state or national borders.
If you are in the midst of a Chattanooga federal drug case, it is essential that you reach out to an experienced lawyer right away. With federal sentencing guidelines being very strict, you may be facing more severe consequences than if you were arrested on a state charge. Working with a dedicated drug attorney might be your best option for building a strong defense and protecting your rights.
Federal drug laws revolve around the five schedules outlined by the DEA into what constitutes the danger and likelihood of causing addiction. Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and marijuana. These substances are federally considered to be very dangerous with a high chance of addiction and no accepted medical use.
Schedule II drugs may have some slight medical use but are still considered highly addictive, like morphine, cocaine, and PCP. Schedule III controlled substances such as anabolic steroids, codeine, hydrocodone, and other barbiturates are seen as having bona fide medical uses and are less addictive than schedule I or II drugs.
Schedule IV drugs are less likely to be abused and include benzodiazepines like Valium or Xanax. Finally, schedule V drugs tend to be over-the-counter drugs that are commonly used by millions every day. The drug case in federal court generally will not differ in terms of a possession charge whether the accused is facing a schedule I or a schedule IV violation.
While the schedule of the substance does not necessarily have a large effect on the severity of charges, the amount that is possessed will greatly impact potential penalties. At certain levels for different schedule drugs, a possession charge may rise to a distribution charge where the quantity in their possession would indicate that they’re in the business of selling, delivering or providing larger quantities of these controlled substances to other individuals. Eventually, a person may be charged with trafficking if there are even larger amounts involved.
Besides these possession charges and their related derivatives like distribution and trafficking, a person may also be federally charged with the manufacturing drugs. This type of federal drug charge would also apply to the cultivation of cannabis. Even if growing marijuana is legal in a person’s state of residence, it remains federally prohibited.
The most direct way to have any drug charge tried in a federal court is for a federal law enforcement officer to make the arrest. This federal officer could be a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent, a National Park Service ranger, or even a US Marshall. Any federal drug charge would then be prosecuted by the United States Attorney for the district in which the crime occurs. However, the most common path for a case to land in federal court is simply if the quantity of drugs discovered or seized is exceptionally high.
Federal drug laws are often more serious and harsher than state laws. Individuals engaged in trafficking or the manufacture of controlled substances are prosecuted at the federal level to try to deter that behavior as much as possible as a matter of public policy. There are mandatory minimum prison sentences for somebody convicted of a federal drug offense, often leading to as many as 10 years in prison for an offense that might get no jail time at all on a state level.
Additionally, federal criminal laws do not have a parole program. So, individuals who are sentenced to prison time in federal court generally spend approximately 85 percent of their sentence behind bars. Chattanooga federal drug cases may also bring other related charges such as charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) that can result in additional jail time for large scale conspiracies involving multiple individuals in a drug organization. Ultimately, drug crimes at the federal level are very serious affairs and deserve as much attention as possible to obtain the best result for their case.
Federal drug charges are more serious because of the mandatory minimum punishments associated with most drug offenses in the federal system. However, this does not mean that an experienced lawyer may not be able to negotiate an alternative to extensive incarceration or avoid a conviction altogether. Having an attorney who’s familiar with the strategies and options available in Chattanooga federal drug cases ensures that you have the best chance of eliminating the threat of prison time when faced with federal drug charges. Call right away to get qualified legal assistance.