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In the U.S., federal and state drug charges span a variety of distinct laws and statutes. Penalties related to drug violations can include steep fines and long prison sentences. Those who get convicted may find it difficult to maintain gainful employment, participate in student financial aid programs or keep their professional certifications.
Federal and state laws define different misdemeanor and felony levels of drug crimes. For instance, Ohio prescribes different penalties for people who violate drug possession laws and those found guilty of selling, manufacturing or growing illegal substances. As with other criminal proceedings, prosecutors may choose to charge individuals with multiple crimes related to the same events. For instance, they may take individuals to court for transporting drugs across state lines and also charge them for selling the same drugs upon arriving at their destination.
Other important factors to consider include the nature of the drugs involved. For instance, the federal Controlled Substances Act defines weight limits that govern how much one can purchase substances like flunitrazepam, ephedrine base and other pharmaceutical chemicals within a specific time frame. The statute also classifies controlled substances according to different schedules that are supposed to correspond to their perceived potential for harm, abuse and medical use.
Narcotics charges can be somewhat confusing because drug laws aren't uniform. For instance, with many states moving to legalize cannabis for medical and recreational use, there have been notable conflicts between what is deemed legal at the local and federal levels. Social problems like the opioid epidemic have also resulted in new initiatives that may increase the impact that drug possession laws have on patients who have been prescribed such drugs.
Narcotics charges that involve drug distribution may include accusations of conspiracy, racketeering and other organized crime offenses. Since these cases center on evidence of wrongdoing, defense lawyers may mount counterarguments based on factors like:
Fighting drug charges is critical for those who stand accused. Criminal defense attorneys may be able to construct strategies to counter the allegations and ameliorate the potential penalties if a conviction is obtained, such as arguing that their clients suffer from addictions that would be better served by drug treatment or diversion programs instead of incarceration.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about half of all federal inmates in 2014 were serving sentences related to drug offenses. People of color are more likely to face incarceration for such convictions even though government data shows that there are no significant differences in the rates at which they use illicit drugs. Access to legal resources and knowledge may prove critical for the accused and member of at-risk populations.