Person arrested on drug charges
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The U.S. war on drugs began in 1970, with the passage of the Controlled Substances Act. However, it wasn’t until President Richard Nixon stated to Congress that drug addiction had become “a national emergency” that America kicked off a campaign of criminalizing drug use. This campaign has persisted for decades.

Aside from being largely unsuccessful, the war on drugs has resulted in systemic and unequal persecution of minorities. In addition, drug crimes can be prosecuted at both state and federal levels, potentially leading to significant consequences.

If you’ve been charged with a drug crime, an experienced drug crime defense attorney can help you understand the charges and possible penalties. What differences are there between state and federal crimes?

Federal Drug Crime Penalties

The first thing you need to understand about federal vs. state drug crime is that differentiating between them is often a matter of scope. If you’re found in possession of illicit drugs in a small enough volume that they’re considered to be for personal use, the offense would most likely be handled at the local or state level.

However, it may depend on where a drug falls on the schedules detailed by the Controlled Substances Act. These range from Schedule I to Schedule V (1–5). Schedule I drugs like LSD and heroin are considered to have significant potential for abuse without medical value. Schedule V drugs have minimal potential for abuse and could include substances like prescription cough medicine.

If you’re caught manufacturing, distributing, trafficking, or selling drugs (or with quantities deemed to represent an intent to sell), you could be charged with a federal crime. As you might imagine, federal drug crimes carry the potential for more significant penalties.

Understanding Mandatory Minimum Sentencing in Federal Drug Crimes: Types, Amounts, and Penalties

Mandatory minimum sentencing for federal drug crimes is based on the type of drug, the amount in possession, and the crime a person is charged with. For example, a five-year minimum sentence applies to charges of Distribution/Manufacturing/Possession with Intent to Distribute 5g or more of meth or 100g or more of heroin. A ten-year minimum sentence would apply to similar charges but with 50g or more of actual meth or 1kg or more of heroin (first offense).

Trafficking or intent to traffic also entails a five-year minimum sentence. Penalties may increase with prior felony drug convictions, distribution near schools or to persons under the age of 21, or extenuating circumstances like serious bodily injury or death resulting from drugs a person manufactured or distributed.

State Drug Crime Penalties

When you are charged with a state or federal drug crime, an experienced attorney can help you understand the charges and build a defense to avoid conviction or minimize sentencing. Penalties at the state level tend to be less harsh than federal for the same crime.

However, you should know that you could be tried in state and federal court when your crime violates both state and federal laws. This does not defy double jeopardy as it falls under the dual sovereignty doctrine.

In South Carolina, a conviction for possession, manufacturing, or trafficking of methamphetamine or cocaine base could entail fines up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 15 years (with no mandatory minimum) for a first offense. This is generally more favorable than the federal mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

How Laws Differ Depending on Place

Laws differ from one state to the next. Some are more lenient than others, with options for small fines, community service, or drug counseling at the court’s discretion. It’s important to understand the laws and penalties in your state if you’re facing drug charges.

Defending Against Drug Charges

The right drug crime defense attorney can help you fight state and/or federal charges, whether you were merely in possession of a controlled substance or you were charged with intent to distribute or trafficking.

Contact Us Today

If you’re facing drug crime charges in South Carolina, contact the Law Office of Mo Abusaft today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.