Drug crimes are exactly what their title implies, crimes that are related to drugs. Every state in the United States as well as the federal government have laws which address the possession, use, manufacture, and sale of certain drugs.

There are four basic types of drug crimes. Each of these types of crimes has different requirements for proof and carries different penalties. The types of drug crimes include:

  • Possession;
  • Distribution;
  • Use; and
  • Manufacturing.

Drug possession is one of the most common types of drug crimes. Drug possession charges typically arise when an individual is knowingly in possession of a drug without authorization.

This may occur when they have the drug without a valid prescription. Typically, drug possession charges also take into account the amount of the drug an individual possesses. The penalty for the crime may vary depending on whether the amount of the drug is for personal use, sale, or distribution.

The distribution of an illegal drug can be a very serious offense with serious consequences. This type of crime involves the following actions:

  • Selling an illegal drug;
  • Smuggling an illegal drug;
  • Trafficking an illegal drug; and
  • The delivery of an illegal drug.

The use of an illegal drug can be a criminal offense, especially in cases where the drug used requires a prescription from a doctor and the individual does not possess a valid prescription. The use of illegal drugs can also include specific drugs that are made illegal by statute, such as methamphetamine.

Drug manufacturing involves creating, sometimes known as cooking, a synthetic chemical substance or extracting a natural drug, such as cooking methamphetamines or growing marijuana. The packaging of a drug for resale may also count as manufacturing.

What are the Different Types of Illegal Drugs?

The legality of many drugs is determined by how the drug is being used and for what the drug is being used. For example, in many states, marijuana is currently illegal. However, some states do allow recreational marijuana use and other states allow marijuana use only with a medical prescription.

Prescription drugs are considered legal for those individuals who possess a valid prescription. However, if an individual possesses or uses a prescription drug without having a prescription from a doctor, they may be charged with a drug crime.

Marjiuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States today. This is true even in states that prohibit marijuana possession and use.

Recently, changes have occurred in marijuana laws. Currently, sixteen states recognize marijuana as being legal for both recreational and medical usage. Thirty-six states recognize marijuana use for medical reasons with a valid prescription.

Other drugs that are commonly abused which may bring about criminal charges include:

  • Cocaine;
  • Heroin;
  • Methamphetamines;
  • Ecstasy; and
  • PCP, or Angel Dust.

What is a Controlled Substance?

In general, a controlled substance is a substance that is regulated by the government. Typically, these substances have a detrimental effect on an individual’s health and welfare.

Controlled substances are strictly controlled by governmental regulation. The Controlled Substances Act classifies controlled substances into five categories, called schedules, based on their:

  • Medicinal value;
  • Potential for abuse;
  • Safety to the public; and
  • Likelihood for dependency.

Controlled substances include legal and illegal drugs.

What is Possession of an Illegal Drug?

An individual may be convicted of possession of illegal drugs if they:

  • Knowingly obtain illegal drugs;
  • Fail to get rid of illegal drugs after realizing they were in their possession; and
  • Are in the vicinity of illegal drugs.

It is important to note that an individual can be charged with criminal possession of illegal drugs even if they were merely holding the drugs for someone else. An individual can possess illegal drugs without being the owner of the drugs.

What is Distribution of an Illegal Drug?

An individual may be charged with distribution of an illegal drug if they sell, or, in some cases, give away, illegal drugs. The majority of states have statutes which prohibit the intent to sell illegal drugs, also called illegal narcotics.

Intent to sell illegal drugs is proven using various factors, which include the circumstances surrounding the possession. It may also include testimony of law enforcement officers.

In addition, many states have laws that make aiding and abetting the distribution of narcotics illegal. In other words, an individual who knowingly holds illegal narcotics for someone else may be charged with aiding and abetting the distribution of illegal substances if that individual sells the narcotics.

In some states, there are greater penalties for the distribution of illegal drugs to minors. The age of majority varies by state. In some states, it is 18 and in others, 19.

What is Use of an Illegal Drug?

The majority of substances which are unlawful to possess or distribute are also unlawful to use. This applies to illegal narcotics as well as prescription drugs which were not obtained in a legal manner.

What is Considered to be the Manufacture of an Illegal Drug?

Manufacturing of an illegal drug includes any method by which illegal narcotics may be created. This may include purification and conversion of a legal drug into an illegal substance.

What are the Possible Punishments for Drug Crime Convictions?

In both the federal and the state criminal court systems, the majority of cases that stem from drug crimes include charges of one of the following:

  • Drug possession;
  • Drug manufacturing; and
  • Drug trafficking.

The punishment for federal offenses is typically more severe than the punishment for state drug charges. In addition, each state has its own rules regarding drug crimes and their corresponding punishments.

In general, criminal punishments for drug crimes are based on:

  • The type of drug that is involved. The more dangerous the drug involved, the more severe the punishment. For example, possession of heroin may result in a more severe punishment than possession of marijuana;
  • The amount of drugs. Larger quantities of drugs or packaging in certain quantities may indicate that the drug was intended for distribution;
  • Purpose of the possession. The punishment will likely increase if the drug was being used for sale of distribution as opposed to personal use;
  • Prior convictions. The prior convictions of a defendant can be factored into the punishment given at sentencing; and
  • Probation or parole status. If an individual is on probation when they are convicted of a drug crime, their probation may be revoked.

As noted above, the punishment for a drug crime can vary by state. However, the consequences, generally, may include:

  • Imprisonment;
  • Probation;
  • Fines;
  • Court-ordered counseling;
  • Community service; or
  • Loss of child custody.

Are There Possible Immigration Consequences?

Yes, there may be possible immigration consequences for drug convictions. If the crime results in a felony conviction, it may be detrimental to an individual’s immigration status if they are not a United States citizen.

For example, if the individual is convicted of drug trafficking, they may be subject to immediate removal from the United States. In addition, if an individual has a history of drug convictions, they may not be eligible to enter the U.S. and may not be eligible to apply for citizenship.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Am Charged with a Drug Crime?

It is extremely important to have an experienced drug lawyer on your case if you are charged with a drug crime. Drug crimes can have serious life-long consequences and serious penalties.

Your lawyer can review your case, determine if any defenses are available to you, and represent you in court. A lawyer is your best chance at avoiding a conviction that can have an effect on you and your loved ones for the rest of your life.