Typically, felony drug charges are more severe drug crimes. Under state and federal criminal laws, felony charges usually result in a sentence in prison of more than one year, along with severe criminal fines. In distinction, misdemeanor charges will usually result in a sentence in jail (not prison) and lower criminal penalties. Accordingly, felony drug charges generally result in more weighty criminal penalties.

The difference between a felony charge and a misdemeanor charge will depend on various factors when it comes to drug charges. These may include:

  • The amount of drugs involved;
  • The kind of drugs involved; and
  • Whether the drugs were being dealt or trafficked.

One of the most prominent questions people have is: is drug possession a felony? To start, drug possession can be a simple misdemeanor if it involves only small quantities being possessed for personal use. In comparison, possession of extensive quantities of the same kind of drug may result in felony possession charges.

In most circumstances, selling, trafficking, or distributing drugs is categorized as a felony under most state laws. This is because there is a possibility for more people to be hurt or impacted by the distribution of the drug. In some instances, having over a specific amount of a drug may lead to the judgment that the person planned to sell the drugs, not just possess them for personal use.

What Are Some Examples of Felony Drug Charges?

Felony drug charges can concern a wide range of behavior. Some typical instances of felony drug charges may include:

  • Possession of a Controlled Substance: Possession of specific amounts of drugs may result in felony charges. The amount and kind of drug will depend on federal and state laws. For example, a large amount is needed for some drugs such as marijuana for a possession felony charge. For other drugs such as crack cocaine, smaller amounts are required to trigger a felony charge;
  • Selling Drugs: Selling drugs may result in felony charges as well. As noted, possession of large amounts of some substances may lead the police to believe that the drugs were being kept to sell (“possession with the intent to sell”);
  • Trafficking Drugs: Drug trafficking involves the transportation of drugs or illegal substances. Trafficking might not necessarily involve the sale of drugs; however, transporting them can lead to felony charges, especially if considerable amounts are being transferred. Penalties may also expand if the drugs are being trafficked across state lines.

As noted, the type of drug can also specify whether a drug crime is penalized as a felony. Drugs are categorized into classes known as “Schedules.” Schedule I drugs are substances that pose high risks and have little potential for medical applications.

Schedule V drugs have lower risks and more potential for different applications. Possession of a Schedule I drug or substance can often lead to felony drug charges.

What Are the Consequences of Felony Drug Charges?

Felony charges, even first-offense felony drug charges, will lead to serious criminal penalties. These will involve at least one year in prison and more elevated criminal fees. For example, a possession felony drug conviction may result in 2 years in prison and a criminal fine of several thousand dollars.

The exact amount of fines and the actual prison sentence length will hinge on several elements. These include the amount possessed or sold and the kind of substance involved. It may also hinge on whether the person is a first-time offender or repeat offender.

For example, first-time drug offenses can range from 1-3 years in prison, with fines going from $500 to several thousand dollars. Repeat offenders may encounter 3-15 years in prison and increased criminal fines. Again, this depends on each case.

Are There Any Immigration Significances for a Felony Drug Charge?

Besides prison sentences and fines, felony drug convictions can lead to other outcomes. For example, a person’s immigration situation can be harshly impacted by a felony drug charge. Depending on the case, some felony drug crimes can be deemed “crimes of moral turpitude,” particularly if the crime involved brutality or hazards to public safety.

The defendant may face deportation or removal and have their green card voided in such circumstances. In the case of chronic offenders, they may be forbidden from re-entering the U.S. in the future. These cases may require the service of an attorney who is well-versed in both criminal and immigration laws and understands how the two areas of law interact.

How Are Drugs Categorized?

Almost all states separate drugs into classifications called “Schedules.” These classes are usually founded on, or embraced in whole from, the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which ranks drugs by their identified medical value counterbalanced against the drug’s prospect for dependence and misuse. Like the CSA, most states’ laws acknowledge five schedules, with Schedule I including the most harmful drugs (such as heroin) and Schedule V the most inconsequential. Many drugs, such as morphine, have real medical value but are extremely addictive, so they fall in between.

The Type and Amount of the Drug

Felony charges for drug possession frequently result when a defendant has possessed a specific illegal substance or any illegal possession of a particular amount of prescribed drugs. For instance, in most states, possessing any amount of heroin (a Schedule I substance) is a felony.

In many cases, the amount of the drug in the defendant’s possession will also result in felony rather than misdemeanor charges. For example, in Kentucky, possessing restricted amounts of Schedule I or II narcotic substances is a felony, while possessing non-narcotic Schedule I and II substances will incur a misdemeanor charge.

What is the Difference Between Possession for Personal Use and Possession With Intent to Sell?

Having drugs for personal use usually incurs less excessive charges than possession with the intention to sell. The disparity in punishment mirrors legislators’ opinion of the damage caused by each crime: Those who use drugs are the targets of those who sell them. A user damages only himself; a seller damages many.

However, possession is a crime, and even mere possession of small amounts can be charged as a felony in states with tough drug possession laws. And in those that are more forgiving, when hazardous drugs are involved, such as heroin or cocaine, felony charges are conceivable.

What Are Aggravating Circumstances?

In numerous states, prosecutors may indict a defendant with a felony if the offense involved one or more “aggravating circumstances” or “aggravating factors,” even if the drug possession in question would otherwise have been a misdemeanor. The selection of these elements echoes legislators’ sentiments that crimes arising under these circumstances are potentially much more dangerous when drugs are sold to or around children than when these elements do not exist.

Should I Speak to a Lawyer If I Am Confronting Felony Drug Charges?

Felony drug charges can result in some dire outcomes. It may be in your best interests to consult with a drug crime attorney in your area if you’re facing felony drug charges. Your attorney can furnish you with legal guidance and help build a case for your trial. Use LegalMatch to find the proper attorney for your needs today.