Generally speaking, felony drug charges are more serious drug crimes. Under state and federal criminal laws, felony charges typically result in a sentence in prison for greater than one year, along with serious criminal fines. In contrast, misdemeanor charges will usually result in a sentence in jail (not prison), and lower criminal fines. Thus, felony drug charges typically result in more serious criminal penalties.
When it comes to drug charges, the difference between a felony charge and a misdemeanor charge will depend on various factors. These may include:
- The amount of drugs involved;
- The type of drugs involved; and
- Whether the drugs were being sold or trafficked.
One of the biggest questions people have is: is drug possession a felony? To answer, drug possession can be a simple misdemeanor if it involves only small amounts being possessed for personal use. In comparison, possession of large amounts of the same type of drug may result in felony possession charges.
In most cases, selling, trafficking, or distributing drugs is classified as a felony under most state laws. This is because there is a potential for more people to be harmed or affected by the distribution of the drug. In some instances, possessing over a certain amount of a drug may lead to the conclusion that the person intended to sell the drugs, not merely possess them for personal use.
Felony drug charges can involve a wide range of conduct. Some common examples of felony drug charges may include:
- Possession of a Controlled Substance: Possession of certain amounts of drugs may result in felony charges. The amount and type of drug will depend on federal and state laws. For instance, for some drugs such as marijuana, a high amount is needed for a possession felony charge. For other drugs such as crack cocaine, lesser amounts are needed to trigger a felony charge;
- Selling Drugs: Selling drugs may result in felony charges as well. As mentioned, possession of large amounts of some substances may lead the police to assume that the drugs were being held for the purpose of selling them (“possession with the intent to sell”);
- Trafficking Drugs: Drug trafficking involves the transport of drugs or illegal substances. This might not necessarily involve the sale of them; however, transporting them can lead to felony charges, especially if large amounts are being moved. Penalties may also increase if the drugs are being trafficked across state lines.
As mentioned, the type of drug can also determine whether a drug crime is punished 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 are substances that have lower risks and more potential for different applications. Possession of a Schedule I drug or substance can frequently lead to felony drug charges.
As mentioned, felony charges, even first offense felony drug charges, will lead to serious criminal punishments. These will involve at least one year in prison and higher criminal fees. For instance, 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 exact prison sentence length will depend on several factors. These include the amount possessed or sold, and they type of substance involved. It may also depend on whether the person is a first-time offender or a repeat offender.
For instance, first-time drug crimes can range from 1-3 years in prison, with fines ranging from $500 to several thousand dollars. Repeat offenders may face 3-15 years in prison and much higher criminal fines. Again, this depends on each individual case.
Besides prison sentences and fines, felony drug convictions can lead to other consequences. For instance, a person’s immigration status can be severely affected by a felony drug charge. Depending on the case, some felony drug crimes can be considered “crimes of moral turpitude”, especially if the crime involved violence or threats to public safety.
In such cases, the defendant may face deportation or removal, and may have their green card revoked. In the case of a habitual offender, they may be prohibited from re-entering the U.S. in the future. These types of cases may require the assistance of an attorney who is well-versed in both criminal and immigration laws, and knows how the two areas of law interact.
Felony drug charges can result in some very serious consequences. It may be in your best interests to consult with a criminal law attorney in your area if you’re facing felony drug charges. Your attorney can provide you with legal advice, and can help build a case for your trial.