Drug Crimes and Drug Laws

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 What Is a Drug Crime?

Drug crimes are exactly what they sound like — crimes linked to drugs. All fifty states and the federal government have laws that handle certain drugs’ possession, use, manufacture, and sale. Each offense has specific criteria and has different penalties, especially regarding the severity of the crime committed.

Drug crimes generally include crimes like:

  • Possession: Drug possession is the most standard offense for drug crimes. Drug possession charges usually occur when a person is consciously in possession of a drug without permission, such as when a person has a drug without a proper prescription. Usually, drug possession charges take into account the amount of the drug as well, and punishments may differ depending on whether the amount is for personal use or for sale and distribution;
  • Manufacturing: Drug manufacturing often involves making or “cooking” a synthetic chemical substance or extracting a natural drug (for instance, cooking methamphetamines or growing illegal marijuana). Packaging a drug for resale can also count as manufacturing;
  • Use: The usage of illegal drugs can be a criminal act, particularly in circumstances where the drug needs a prescription from a doctor, and the culprit does not have the required prescription; and
  • Distribution: This kind of drug offense includes the sale, smuggling, trafficking, and delivery of illegal substances.

Drug crimes can also include offenses like drug trafficking, which largely depends on the number of drugs involved and the type of drug involved.

What Are Some Other Types of Illegal Drugs?

The legality of most drugs is determined by how it’s used and what it is used for. For instance, marijuana is currently illegal in many states. In contrast, some states permit it for recreational use, and others permit it only with a medical prescription. Prescription drugs are deemed legal for those who have a proper prescription. However, if you possess or use a prescription drug without a prescription from a physician, you may be charged with a drug crime.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States, even in states that ban its possession and use. Recently, large changes have taken place in marijuana laws. Some states recognize marijuana as legal for both recreational and medical use. In contrast, more recognize it only for medical use with a valid prescription.

Other commonly abused drugs that may bring about criminal charges include substances like:

  • Cocaine;
  • Heroin;
  • Methamphetamines;
  • Ecstasy; and
  • PCP (or “Angel Dust”).

What Is a “Controlled Substance”?

Generally, a controlled substance is a drug that the government regulates. Usually, these substances can have a harmful effect on a person’s health and welfare and are rigidly controlled by government regulation. The Controlled Substances Act splits up different classes of drugs into five schedules based on medicinal value, the potential for abuse, safety to the public, and likelihood for dependency. Controlled substances include both legal and illegal drugs.

What Are the Potential Penalties for Drug Crime Convictions?

In both federal and state systems, most drug crime cases come from drug possession, manufacturing, or trafficking charges. Penalties for federal crimes are generally harsher than those for state charges. At the same time, each state has its own laws about drug crimes and how they are punished.

Typically, penalties are based on:

  • The type of drug involved: The more “harmful” the drug, the harsher the penalty. For instance, possessing heroin may result in a more extreme penalty than marijuana;
  • The amount of drug: Large doses of drugs may suggest that the drug was intended for distribution;
  • Purpose of possession: Whether the drug was intended for personal use or for sale and distribution;
  • Prior convictions: An offender’s previous convictions can be factored into the judgment regarding sentencing; and
  • Probation or parole status: If an offender is on probation when convicted of a drug crime, they may encounter
  • having their probation voided.

Penalties for drug crimes can differ from state to state, but generally, the results can involve:

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

What Is Paraphernalia?

In general, “drug paraphernalia” depicts any tools used to prepare, inject, inhale, or hide illegal drugs. It also refers to any tools used to hide or make drugs. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, it’s against the law for anyone to sell, import, or export any drug paraphernalia.

Examples of drug paraphernalia include but are not limited to:

  • Bongs
  • A wide variety of pipes
  • Rolling papers
  • Syringes

The issue that often arises with drug paraphernalia is that many are made to look as if they are created for lawful purposes. For instance, many bongs include labeling stating that they should only be used with tobacco. Even with such a tag, you can be charged with drug paraphernalia depending on where you bought the item or how the thing looks.

What Is Drug Manufacturing/Delivery?

Another kind of drug crime is drug manufacturing, involving any step of the production process of an illicit narcotic. The delivery of any illegal narcotic is also deemed a crime under federal and state laws. Usually, prosecutors must demonstrate intent to manufacture and possession to convict an alleged drug manufacturer. If sentenced, a drug manufacturer could face fines and prison time.

What Is Drug Trafficking?

Drug trafficking and distribution regulations make selling, transporting, and importing illegal controlled substances like marijuana and cocaine unlawful. As a felony, drug trafficking and distribution is a more severe offense than just drug possession because it usually involves transporting a large amount of drugs.

Nevertheless, simply possessing large amounts of an illegal drug may lead police to think that you intended to sell the narcotics, and they may charge you with the distribution. If convicted of drug trafficking, the sentence can be anywhere from 3 years to life in prison.

What Is Drug Dealing?

“Drug dealing” typically refers to dealing illegal drugs on a smaller scale. It’s essential to recognize that trafficking and dealing are expressed differently from state to state and under federal law. Since drug dealing usually involves one person selling a small amount, the penalty is less intense than selling larger amounts. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which sets federal punishments for drug dealing and trafficking, selling less than 50 grams of marijuana can result in a sentence of up to 5 years and a fine of $250,000. Yet, a sale of 1,000 kilograms of marijuana can lead to a sentence of 10 years or more than life.

Are There Possible Immigration Consequences?

If the drug crime results in a felony conviction, it can negatively impact a person’s immigration status if they are not a U.S. citizen. For instance, a conviction for drug trafficking can make them subject to immediate removal from the country. A history of similar drug convictions can make them ineligible for entry into the United States and ineligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Should I Speak to a Lawyer to Help with Drug Crimes?

If you have been charged with a drug crime, it is in your best interests to consult a local drug attorney. The penalties can become harsh depending on the nature of the crime charged, and a lawyer can give you the best advice on what to anticipate.

Your attorney can demonstrate the penalties you’re facing, help you defend your rights, and represent you in court to get the best possible result for your case.


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