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What Are the Key Differences Between State and Federal Drug Crime Penalties?

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What is a Drug Crime?

While this may seem like a simple question with a simple answer, it does not always pan out that way. There are several primary classifications of drug crime as defined by the Bureau of Justice.

The first one is a drug-defined offense. These are crimes directly related to drugs, like possessing an illegal substance or distributing or manufacturing illicit substances. For example, if you are searched for whatever reason, and an illegal substance is found on your person, you will likely be charged with possession of a controlled substance.

The second one is a drug-related offense. This can be seen as a set of offenses that exists parallel to drug use. In another example, if you are found to have committed a crime that was motivated by drug use, such as stealing in an effort to afford drugs, this is seen as a drug-related offense.

What is the Difference Between State and Federal Crimes?

The critical difference between Federal and State crimes boils down to jurisdiction. If the crime was committed in one state, it will likely be seen as having happened in the jurisdiction of that state and will likely be prosecuted by that state.

There are some exceptions to this rule, but the one that relates to this topic the most is drug trafficking, which is seen as a federal crime that will fall under federal jurisdiction and would be prosecuted by the federal government.

Federal jurisdiction covers crimes that involve a national or federal interest. If the crime occurred on federal property, crossed state lines, or the person who committed the crime crosses state lines themselves, then they may find themselves being prosecuted by the federal government.

What Are the Penalties for a State Drug Crime?

Alabama does not treat all drug crimes the same. Possession of marijuana is not treated the same as possession of harder drugs, like cocaine or heroin. Likewise, possessing different quantities of drugs is treated differently. While possessing a small amount of marijuana for personal use is charged as a Class A Misdemeanor, possessing a more significant amount can be seen as distribution and can be charged as such, a Class B Felony!

Just as the penalties become more severe with the possession of larger quantities, they also become more severe with repeated criminal charges.

Here is an example of a range of drug crime penalties in Alabama:

Marijuana Possession for personal use: Misdemeanor, no more than one year of incarceration, no more than a $6,000 fine.

Marijuana Possession for non-personal use: Felony, no more than ten years of incarceration, no more than a $15,000 fine.

Marijuana Sale of any amount: Felony, no more than 20 years of incarceration, no more than a $30,000 fine.

Marijuana Sale by a person over 18 to a minor: Felony, up to 99 years of incarceration, no more than a $60,000 fine.

In the case of possession of a schedule I, II, III, IV, or V controlled substance, minus marijuana, a class D felony is the base charge and incarceration of at least a year and a day with a maximum of five years, and fines of up to $7,000. The penalties scale, becoming more severe with repeat charges and higher quantities.

What are the Penalties for Federal Drug Crimes?

There are two main ways to be charged with a federal drug crime: the first is if the crime was committed on government property, and the second is the movement of a large amount of controlled substances over state lines or drug trafficking.

Federal drug crime penalties often carry more severe penalties because of the resources necessary to convict someone of a federal crime.

The most common federal drug crime is often drug trafficking. Drug trafficking charges rely on a variety of charges, from the quantity moved to what schedule the drug is classified under.

Some of the penalties can include the following: ten years to life in prison for one kilogram of heroin, five kilograms of cocaine, or 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. Five to 40 years in prison for 100 grams of heroin or 500 grams of cocaine. No more than five years for 50 kilograms of marijuana.

More penalties can be applied for the possession of a firearm while trafficking drugs.

Can You Be Tried at the State and Federal Level?

If a drug crime breaks both a state and federal law, you certainly can be tried at both the state and federal levels. It is more common, however, for one of the jurisdictions to defer to the other. Often, the state prosecutor will defer to the federal court and let the federal government to prosecute the crime.

In some cases, the state government may decide to pursue a trial, even if the federal government is also pursuing one. It is important to note that if you are found innocent at a state level, you can still be found guilty at the federal level. Double jeopardy does not protect an individual in this situation.

If you are facing a drug charge, either from the state or federal level, you need to have legal counsel. Call 205-881-5641 to schedule a consultation with an experienced drug crime attorney. The lawyers at The Hazzard Law Firm, LLC, are knowledgeable about drug crime law and are eager to assist you.

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