When charged with federal drug crimes, having an experienced Tampa defense lawyer who can properly represent you in court is essential.
A federal drug crime charge will lead to a tough prosecution and heavy penalties if convicted. To ensure that your rights are protected and that you have the best legal defense, you’ll need a lawyer with experience at the federal level. Public defenders are often overworked and ill-equipped to handle individual defenses. Seeking qualified representation can help you fight a charge or seek a plea agreement that results in a reduced sentenced.
Here’s what you need to know about being charged with a federal drug crime and what your next step should be.
The Difference Between Federal and State Drug Charges
Both the state of Florida and the Federal Government have laws that make the possession, sale, or production of drugs illegal. Ultimately, however, federal law supersedes state law. If a federal prosecutor wants to try a drug case in federal court rather than having the state try it, they can. The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) allows the federal government this power.
In the state of Florida, most drug investigations are led by local or state officials, and federal officials can take over such an investigation if they wish. Some investigations, however, are led by the DEA. The latter will likely result in federal charges.
Certain drug crimes are automatically federal drug crimes. When a drug crime occurs on federal property, whether it’s a military base or a national park, it is a federal drug crime and will be tried as such. If a drug crime involves crossing state borders, it will also be tried as a federal drug crime.
State and federal drug crimes do require that prosecutors present a case that proves the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the penalties for what appear to be similar crimes do vary because of the state and federal sentencing guidelines. In addition, state drug charges can be dealt with in drug court, where the sentence will involve treatment, while federal charges cannot.
Mandatory minimum sentencing for federal drug crimes can lead to long sentences for first-time offenders, despite their lack of previous criminal convictions. A strong defense can go a long way towards minimizing sentences.
Controlled Substances Act
The CSA is part of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970. It gives the federal government jurisdiction over particular drugs and substances it has deemed dangerous. The CSA created a classification system for drugs that is still in place today.
Currently, there are 5 schedules or classes of drugs. Drugs are placed in a specific schedule depending on their potential for abuse, their medical benefits, whether they are a component of another controlled substance, and scientific evidence regarding the drugs. A Schedule I drug is believed to be extremely addictive and open to abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most heavily prosecuted.
There are arguments regarding the current scheduling system, especially as marijuana remains a Schedule I drug despite research regarding its medical benefits and legalization and decriminalization in many states. However, because Federal law trumps state law, marijuana users and dispensaries could face a federal drug charge if the government wished to pursue such a case.
Types of Federal Drug Charges
The following drug crimes may result in more than just prison time following a conviction. In addition to mandatory minimum sentences at the federal level, these crimes can lead to loss of federal benefits and property and make it difficult to find future employment. Plus, in Florida, individuals convicted of a felony lose their right to vote.
Possession is the most common type of drug charge and can be tried at the state or federal level. A charge of simple possession occurs when a police officer or federal agent catches an individual in possession of a small amount of drugs. At the federal level, the length of the mandatory minimum sentence depends on the type of drug and the amount found on the person. Penalties increase after the first offense.
Possession With Intent to Distribute
If an individual is found to have a large quantity of drugs, drugs that have been packaged for sale, or items that are used in the sale of drugs (such as a drug scale and baggies), they may be charged with Possession With Intent to Distribute. This is a more serious charge than simple possession and carries a heftier sentence, especially if it is a second offense.
Trafficking or Distribution
The transport, sale, or smuggling of illegal drugs or the illegal distribution of prescription drugs is a felony. Sentencing will depend on the type of substance(s) involved, the amount involved, where they were being distributed, and more. For example, trafficking up to 5 kgs of cocaine can lead up to a 40-year prison sentence and hefty monetary fine. Trafficking up to 50 kgs of marijuana, on the other hand, may lead to a sentence of up to 5 years for a first offense, with a fine of a quarter million dollars.
A manufacturing charge can cover the sale of equipment used to make drugs, the sale of chemicals used to make illegal drugs and assisting in the process of making illegal drugs. While the production of meth is seen as “manufacturing,” many people may not know that growing marijuana can also lead to a manufacturing charge. The type of drug being manufactured, the amount of illicit drugs being manufactured, and the location of the drugs being manufactured can all impact the sentence of an individual convicted of manufacturing illegal substances.
Your Federal Drug Charge Requires a Reputable Defense Lawyer
A defense lawyer in a federal case must be knowledgeable and cool under pressure—hiring the attorney that helped with your DUI or divorce isn’t a good idea. Seek someone with federal court experience.
Mike G. has 25 years of experience and has been rated as AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell. He is known for his commitment and drive—both of which are key for a strong defense.
A federal prosecutor will bring their best case to court—make sure you bring your best defense. If you have been charged with a federal drug crime, contact the offices of Mike G. Law today.