Drug Violations Law

Drug Crimes Overview

Individuals who are in possession of controlled substances may face a variety of penalties, 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 crime simply for having a drug in his or her car or home. Let's take a closer look at how state and federal drug crimes law may impact someone charged with such an offense.

Controlled Substances Act

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) places any substance regulated by federal law into one of five categories. When a 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.

Controlled substances that are considered highly addictive and have no medical benefit are classified as Schedule I drugs. Those that are considered to have little risk for abuse and provide a proven and acceptable medical benefit are classified as Schedule V drugs. Examples of Schedule I drugs include LSD or GHB while an example of a Schedule V drug would be cough syrup with codeine.

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.

State Drug Laws

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. (4) 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. (5) 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 he or she is considered to be 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, he or she 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 five 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.

However, there are ways for individuals who have been charged with drug crimes that carry minimum sentences to find relief. One way is if the prosecution informs the judge that a defendant has provided significant assistance in a given case. Another scenario that may help is known as a "safety valve." A lighter sentence may be granted to those who committed a nonviolent trafficking offense and were forthcoming with all of the information related to the crime.

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.