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Drug Violations Law

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Drug Crimes Overview

Individuals who are in possession of controlled substances may face a variety of legal issues, which may have a significant impact on their personal and professional lives. In some cases, a person could be taken into custody and charged with a drug offense simply for having an illegal substance in their car or home.

This article examines state and federal criminal drug law and how it impacts someone charged with an offense. Consider speaking with a local criminal defense lawyer right away to start building your legal defense.

The Controlled Substances Act

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) places any substance regulated by federal law into one of five categories. When a controlled substance is placed into a category, the government looks at the scientific knowledge about the drug and the harm it may do. It will also be analyzed to determine its potential for abuse and if there are any benefits that may be derived from using it.

  • Schedule I. Drugs are classified as Schedule I substances when they have no known medical value and are likely to be abused by those who take them. Drugs classified as Schedule I substances include heroin, LSD, ecstasy and marijuana.
  • Schedule II. This schedule is reserved for drugs that have known medical benefits but are also likely to cause addiction. Drugs currently classified as Schedule II substances include morphine and cocaine.
  • Schedule III. These drugs have known medical uses and are thought to lead to either low or moderate physical dependence or high psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs include anabolic steroids and many habit-forming prescription drugs.
  • Schedule IV. These substances have known medical uses and are less likely to lead to physical or psychological addiction than Schedule III substances. Many prescription antidepressants and sleep aids, such as Xanax and Ambien, are considered Schedule IV drugs.
  • Schedule V. Drugs are classified as Schedule V substances when they provide proven medical benefits and are unlikely to cause physical or psychological addiction. Cough syrups that contain opioids such as codeine are often classified as Schedule V substances.

Even if a drug is not listed on any of the current schedules, it could still be considered a controlled substance. This may be true if it is considered an analogue of a listed substance. It could also be included on the list if it is considered to have the potential for abuse of any kind.

Federal and State Drug Laws

Every state has its own set of drug laws, and these do not always align with the federal government’s position on controlled substances. The use of marijuana for medical and even recreational purposes is now permitted in several states, but the drug remains a prohibited Schedule I substance under federal law.

The penalties for possessing, distributing and selling drugs can also differ greatly from state to state. California residents can grow, possess and consume modest amounts of marijuana without running afoul of state laws, but being found in possession of even small amounts of the drug in Arizona is considered a felony.

State lawmakers may learn about a developing drug issue before Congress becomes aware of the problem. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) tend to devote most of its resources to combating the trafficking and distribution of illegal drugs while state and local authorities concentrate more on cases involving drug possession and drug sales.

State Drug Laws, Broadly

In addition to federal laws relating to controlled substances, states may impose their own penalties. For instance, in New York, it is a misdemeanor charge to smoke marijuana in public or possess more than 25 grams of the drug. In the state of Indiana, an individual could face up to 180 days in jail for being found in possession of any amount of marijuana.

Controlled substances are banned at the federal level, so those who are taken into custody for violating a state drug law could face federal charges as well.

Drug Possession Laws

According to federal law, it is illegal to knowingly possess any controlled substance unless it has been prescribed to someone directly by a medical doctor. Medical doctors or other professionals may dispense a controlled substance assuming that it has been prescribed to that person.

It is important to understand that someone could be charged with a crime if they are in constructive possession of a drug, which means that it is not physically on the person who is charged with a crime. It may also apply if a person is in possession of a drug that does not belong to him or her.

Drug Sentencing Laws

If a person is convicted of a federal drug crime, they may be subject to mandatory minimum sentences. For instance, someone who is found with 5 grams of crack cocaine could be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison without parole. That same person could be sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole for being in possession of 50 grams or more. Mandatory minimums may also be in effect for those found with marijuana, LSD, and PCP.

Individuals who have been found in possession of a controlled substance may face significant penalties, including many years in jail or prison. Therefore, people who have been charged with drug crimes may find it helpful to speak with a criminal law attorney who may be able to help them preserve their rights throughout the legal process. Doing so may result in a plea deal, an acquittal, or another favorable outcome in the case.

Facing criminal charges can feel overwhelming. Seeking the services of an experienced local criminal defense attorney can have a significant impact on drug cases. A capable attorney will draw from past cases and local laws to surmount your best defense. Defending drug possession charges can help minimize risk to your criminal record and secure your best legal outcome.