The federal government and each state government have established laws defining drug possession offenses. When a crime occurs, the person charged could face penalties at the state and federal levels.
While state laws apply when an event happens within a particular state’s borders, federal laws apply when crimes are committed across multiple states. Federal law also applies to federal lands, like national parks. Hiring an experienced attorney to help solve your federal legal problems is a step towards moving past federal drug possession charges.
Is Drug Possession a Federal Crime?
While you might have seen or read that some states are legalizing cannabis or decriminalizing possession of some drugs, the federal government has not made any of those shifts. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) follows the outline of the congressionally created Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to prosecute those who possess various types of drugs.
When a person incurs a federal drug possession charge, it is considered more severe, and the potential penalties are harsher. State prosecutors can prosecute people for possession of small amounts of drugs, but federal drug cases are rarely for minor infractions. Indeed, United States attorneys pursue felonies like drug trafficking, intent to distribute, and manufacturing.
Under a federal provision, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), passed in the 1970s, federal prosecutors have more avenues to charge people engaged in organized trafficking or possession of drugs.
Sometimes, when you are arrested, it might be challenging to know if you are being charged in a state court, federal court, or both because local police and federal law enforcement often combine forces to execute search warrants. Usually, if prosecutors can loop in the federal system at all, charges will follow.
As mentioned earlier, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is the legal basis for federal drug possession criminal intervention. The law both criminalizes and regulates drug possession of narcotics, hallucinogens, and others.
Interestingly, doctors must carry a federally acquired license to prescribe drugs listed on the CSA and face stiff penalties for violating the terms of their license.
Broken out into five distinct schedules, the CSA ranks different drugs based on addiction and medical value. The most severe drugs rank under Schedule I and include drugs like heroin. An example of a Schedule II drug is fentanyl which is described as having high addiction properties.
The remaining schedules include drugs in descending order. While there is some appetite in the federal government to revisit drug classification in the CSA, talking to a drug possession lawyer is the best way to stay apprised of legal changes.
What Is Federal Drug Possession?
Contravening drug possession laws include an array of crimes; each of those potential offenses carries severe penalties. Unlike most state charges, federal law sometimes requires mandatory minimum prison sentences resulting in years of detention. Unfortunately, the federal government may impose harsher sanctions if a person commits multiple federal drug possession offenses, and prosecutors can label that individual as a “career offender.”
While everyone is entitled to their constitutional right to be heard at trial and judged by a jury of peers, some people decide that a plea agreement might be more advantageous in their case. As your federal lawyer for drug possession can explain, plea deals sometimes lead to an inability to appeal your sentence.
What’s more, is that supervision options – like parole and probation – are nearly non-existent at the federal level, so lengthy prison sentences via trial or plea are often completed in their long entirety.
What Are the Punishments For Federal Drug Possession?
After an arrest but before a trial begins, a person charged with federal drug possession might be held in pretrial detention or released via bail. Judges weigh a variety of factors in determining bail eligibility and conditions.
A professional drug possession attorney can file motions to speed a bail hearing and represent you at court to ensure that you remain in your community before the trial or a plea settlement.
Plea bargaining is a tool used to negotiate with prosecutors to lower your sentence ultimately. Most people charged with a federal drug possession crime enter into a plea agreement. Still, a federal drug possession lawyer can explain all of the ramifications and collateral consequences of doing so.
Upon conviction, either by plea agreement or guilty verdict, a person can face years in prison, depending on the severity of the crime. Speaking with an experienced attorney is critical, and the earlier you hire an attorney, the more hope you have.
A Drug Possession Lawyer Will Defend You in Court
The federal judicial system is complex. From pretrial bail hearings to plea negotiations to trial and beyond, experienced attorneys can help you navigate the process. Transparency and understanding are essential qualities of a federal drug possession attorney, and the professionals at Zoukis Consulting Group are ready to work for you.
Asserting Available Defenses
Your lawyer for possession of drugs will work to understand the details of the government’s case against you in order to build a defense strategy designed to protect your rights and freedom. Every criminal drug possession case is different, so the specific defense strategies your attorney chooses will depend on the underlying facts and circumstances of your case.
Still, there are several common potential defenses to drug possession charges. Your attorney may include one or more of these strategies in your case:
- Evidence was obtained illegally: Your attorney may argue that the evidence the government has against you was obtained through an improper search and seizure process and that your constitutional rights were violated in the process.
- Crime lab analysis was faulty: In some cases, one element of the defense strategy is that the analysis conducted by the government’s crime lab was flawed in some way.
- Drugs were planted by someone else: With this defense approach, the defendant admits to having drugs in his or her possession but asserts innocence on the basis that the drugs were planted by a third party. If the drugs were planted by the police or government agents, the government may be guilty of entrapment.
- Lack of criminal possession: Your lawyer may refute the government’s charges if you did not have actual, shared, or constructive possession of the drugs. In other words, the drugs recovered by law enforcement belonged to someone else. This defense also applies in situations where you had legal possession of a substance.
Choose an Experienced Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
There are differences between federal and state criminal proceedings. In addition to harsher potential penalties, the rules of procedure are different in federal courts. If you are facing federal drug possession charges, it is important that you work with an attorney who has knowledge of and experience defending clients in the federal court system.
The attorneys at Zoukis Consulting Group are well-versed in federal criminal matters and routinely represent federal criminal defendants. Our goal is to help each client obtain the best possible outcome in his or her case, and we will work closely with you every step of the way.
Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with a lawyer for drug possession.
Published Feb 15, 2022 by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA | Last Updated by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA on Aug 4, 2023 at 4:05 am