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What Are Federal Drug Crimes?

Drug crimes are one of the most commonly committed federal offenses. In fact, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USCC), in 2019, they were second only to immigration crimes. That year, the USCC received 20,393 reports of drug-related offenses.

Several federal laws prohibit certain conduct involving controlled and counterfeit substances, including but not limited to:

  • Manufacturing, creating, distributing, or dispensing drugs
  • Possessing with intent to manufacture, create, distribute, or dispense drugs
  • Distributing drugs with intent to commit a crime of violence – the substance must have been given without the alleged victim's knowledge
  • Possessing a listed chemical with the intent to make a controlled substance – a listed chemical is one that is known to be used to manufacture drugs
  • Distributing a listed chemical knowing it will be used to manufacture a controlled substance
  • Using the internet to distribute a date rape drug knowing it will be used to commit a sex crime
  • Using the internet to deliver, distribute, or dispense controlled substances
  • Possessing controlled substances

Of the offenses listed above, the most common involve manufacturing, selling, or transporting drugs – also referred to as drug trafficking.

Defining Controlled Substances

Controlled substances are those regulated by the federal government. They include both illegal drugs, such as heroin, and legal medications, such as Xanax.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, drugs are categorized into 5 schedules as follows:

  • Schedule I: Substances that do not have an accepted medical use and have a high potential for abuse.
  • Schedule II: These are also considered dangerous substances with a high potential for abuse. Some may have an accepted medical use, but they can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
  • Schedule III: Substances in this category are considered less dangerous than Schedule II drugs, as they have a moderate to low potential for physical or psychological dependence.
  • Schedule IV: The risk of abuse of or dependence on these substances is lower than that of the drugs in the previous three schedules.
  • Schedule V: The drugs in this category have the lowest potential for abuse in comparison to those in Schedules I through IV.

Of the more than 20,000 federal drug crimes reported in 2019, just over 42% involved methamphetamine. Other offenses involved cocaine (17.9%), heroin (12.6%), and marijuana (8.6%). These are all classified as either Schedule I or II drugs.

The Penalties for Federal Drug Crimes

The U.S. Government takes controlled substance offenses seriously. They are thoroughly investigated, aggressively prosecuted, and severely punished. Convictions for many of these crimes carry mandatory minimum penalties. According to the USCC, nearly 66% of people found guilty of trafficking offenses were subject to mandatory minimum prison sentences.

A few of the potential conviction penalties are as follows:

  • Trafficking offenses involving substances with specific amounts of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, PCP, LSD, marijuana, and methamphetamine:
    • Between 5 years and life in prison (the incarceration term depends on the substance's quantity)
    • A maximum fine of $5,000,000 or $10,000,000 (the amount depends on the substance's quantity)
  • Trafficking a Schedule I or II substance:
    • Up to 20 years in prison
    • Up to $1,000,000 in fines
  • Trafficking more than 50 kilograms of marijuana:
    • Up to 5 years in prison
    • Up to $250,000 in fines
  • Trafficking a Schedule III drug:
    • Up to 10 years in prison
    • Up to $500,000 in fines
  • Trafficking a Schedule IV drug:
    • Up to 5 years in prison
    • Up to $250,000 in fines
  • Trafficking a Schedule V drug:
    • Up to 1 year in prison
    • Up to $100,000 in fines

The punishments listed above concern only trafficking offenses. Different imprisonment terms and fines may be assessed for other federal drug-related crimes. Additionally, the penalties provided for trafficking are those generally imposed. Several factors, such as the defendant's criminal history, may lead to enhanced punishments.

If you have been charged with a federal drug crime, it's essential to aggressively fight the allegations with the help of an experienced lawyer. With legal representation on your side, you can increase your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.

Contact Beckham Solis, Attorneys at Law at (305) 290-1884 today. We can provide the effective defense you need in Miami.

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