In the United States, arrests for drug law violations constitute about 13 percent of the total arrests made annually. In 2009, there were over 1.6 million arrests for drug crimes. Approximately 25 percent of inmates are in prison for drug charges.
Types of Drug Charges
There are three main types of drug charges; possession, sale, and trafficking. Drug possession is the most common type of drug charge and typically carries less severe penalties than other types of drug charges. Sale of drugs is usually a felony charge; penalties may vary based on the type of drug and the circumstances of the case. Drug trafficking is the most severe type of drug charge and may carry a mandatory minimum prison sentence.
Regulatory Drug Laws
Federal guidelines for the regulation of drugs, including a detailed listing of which drugs are illegal can be found in The Controlled Substances Act of 1970. While states may specify and enforce different regulations on drug possession, sale, and trafficking, federal guidelines prevail if a conflict arises that requires federal attention. Most drug charges will be prosecuted following state laws unless there is the potential for the case to have a nationwide impact.
Some drugs which are illegal to possess in the United States include:
- Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
- 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamin (MDMA)
Drug Charges State Variations
In some states, marijuana is legal for general or recreational use and possession will warrant no charge or penalty. In other states, a possession of marijuana charge may be a citation, misdemeanor, or felony depending on the circumstances and the state regulations. With the exception of marijuana, possession of illegal drugs is considered a felony in most states, although the precise charges may vary. Other factors, such as the location of the drugs in regards to a school and any minor involvement in the charge may also affect the severity of the charge and proposed penalty.
Penalties for Drug charges
As drug laws vary from state to state, so do penalties for drug charges. The most common punishments for drug charges are prison time and fines. The amount of the fine, the duration of the prison time, and other factors such as whether parole will be available may be determined by the judge based on the circumstances of the case. Community service, probation, and rehabilitation classes may also be ordered as part of the penalty for drug charges.
Drug Trafficking and Sale Penalties
In cases where large quantities of money may have been made from the sale or trafficking of illegal drugs, civil penalties may apply. State and federal officials may be able to confiscate any money that is suspected to have been made from illegal drug activities. This also applies to property, vehicles, and merchandise that is suspected to have been purchased using profits from illegal drug activity. An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to seek reimbursement for confiscated property by helping the defendant to prove that the property was not purchased using profits from drug activity.
Drug Charges Impact
Besides the penalties imposed by law enforcement, drug charges often have a negative impact on many aspects of an individual’s life. Drug offenders may lose employment and have a very difficult time regaining employment. Drug charges may also disqualify individuals entirely from certain career fields. In addition to the impact on professional potential, drug charges may have an impact on personal relationships and perceptions.
Drug Charges Defense
An attorney that has experience in dealing with drug laws and drug charges may be able to provide valuable assistance for those facing a drug charge. An experienced drug defense attorney understands the negative impact that a drug charge can have on an individual’s future, and will work hard to have the charges minimized or dismissed. Drug defense lawyers are experts when it comes to the changing drug laws, and will be able to assist in assimilating all of the necessary information and evidence to form a defense.
“DEA /Federal Trafficking Penalties.” DEA /Federal Trafficking Penalties. United States Department of Justice, n.d. Web. 22 May 2014. <http://www.justice.gov/dea/druginfo/ftp3.shtml>
Yeh, Brian. “Drug Offenses.” . Congressional Research Service, 13 Dec. 2012. Web. 22 May 2014. <http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL30722.pdf>