Drug crimes can be charged as either misdemeanor or felony offenses, depending on the circumstances of the case. Felony drug offenses are among some of the most serious types of crimes under most state laws.

Felony drug offenses usually result in severe criminal punishments, including fines and long periods of jail time. Misdemeanor offenses, by comparison, have less serious consequences.

What are Some Examples of Felony Drug Charges?

Usually misdemeanor drug charges may involve simple drug possession charges. Felony drug charges, however, usually involve more than simple possession and may also involve different types of drugs. Some examples of felony drug offenses include:

  • Possession Of Drugs Over A Certain Amount: If you are in possession of a large quantity of drugs, you may be subject to felony charges. In some cases, possession of a very large amount of drugs may be considered evidence of intent to sell or distribute drugs. The amount of drugs required for a felony drug possession charge may vary depending on what state you are in.  
    • Additionally, the type of drugs that you are in possession of may also affect the charges you face. Through the Federal Controlled Substances Act, drugs are classified according to “schedules” that categorize them according to the drug’s recognized medical value and the potential for addiction and abuse.
    • Schedule I drugs include the most dangerous drugs, and Schedule V drugs are considered the least dangerous. Therefore, if you possess any amount of heroin (a Schedule I substance), you are more likely to be subject to a felony drug charge.
  • Possession With Intent To Distribute: Possessing drugs for your personal use usually incurs less severe charges than possession with the intent to sell or distribute. The logic behind this notion is based on the level of harm — a user only harms themselves; a seller harms many people. In many states, if you are caught with large amounts of drugs, you are more likely to be charged with intent to distribute, since it is unlikely that you intended to use the entire quantity yourself.
  • Drug Trafficking: Drug trafficking and drug smuggling charges cover behavior more than the mere possession of the drugs. This offense can include a range of different behaviors, such as the possession, manufacture, sale, purchase, or delivery of illegal or controlled substances.
    • This is generally considered to be one of the most serious drug offenses, and is subject to both state and federal laws. Drug trafficking is often prosecuted as a federal crime in situations when the prosecution can prove that the drugs crossed state lines.
  • Possession Or Distribution In A Restricted Area: Often the possession or sale of drugs on or near school grounds is considered a serious offense (largely due to the close proximity of children in such areas), and can result in felony charges.
    • Depending on your state, other restricted areas may include in or near certain public buildings, parks, swimming pools, or on public transportation; in or near drug treatment facilities; or in the presence of children or minors younger than 18 years old.  

What are the Consequences of Felony Drug Charges?

In many cases, misdemeanor drug offenses may result in a small fine, and a small term in jail or even probation. However, felony drug charges usually result in heavy fines (sometimes in the thousands of dollars) as well as a prison sentence.

Prison sentences can be a minimum of a year, but some offenses can result in prison terms of 10-20 years or more.For example, cases of heroin trafficking can result in up to 25 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000.

Sentencing can also be affected by aggravating factors, sometimes called “drug crime enhancements.” Selling drugs in a school zone or to a minor child can be an aggravating factor that can take the underlying distribution or trafficking charge and elevate the punishment to an even harsher level.

Additionally, the court may take into account a defendant’s history. A repeat offender may receive a stiffer sentence than a first-time offender. Felony drug charges are also much more difficult to have removed or expunged from your criminal record.

Are there Any Immigration Consequences to Felony Drug Charges?

Felony convictions, including felony drug convictions, can have serious implications for a person’s immigration status. Felony drug trafficking offenses on a person’s record may result in deportation, and a history of felony drug offenses may make them ineligible for entry or re-entry into the United States or to apply for U.S. citizenship.

If you are an immigrant facing felony drug charges in the U.S., it is very important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn how a felony drug conviction can affect your immigration status. Your attorney can discuss your situation with you, explain the potential consequences that you are facing, and help you figure out the best way to proceed.

Should I Talk to a Lawyer If I’m Facing Felony Drug Charges?

If you or someone you love are facing felony drug charges, it is in your best interests to talk to a criminal defense attorney. Felony drug charges are serious offenses, and these cases can become complicated in a short period of time.

An experienced lawyer near you can help you talk through your situation and represent you in court when the time comes to present your best possible defense.