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Drug Violations Law

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Drug Crime Sentencing

There are severe penalties after a conviction for drug possession, drug trafficking, or selling illegal drugs. Half of all federal prisoners are serving jail time for drug crimes. The number of people doing prison time on drug charges in state prisons has increased since the 1980s.

Even though medical and recreational marijuana is legal in several states, there are severe penalties for possessing small amounts of cannabis in many parts of the country. Criminal sentencing for drug crimes can be based on federal and state drug laws. Find a drug crime defense lawyer in your area for the most up-to-date information after your drug-related arrest.

Drug Sentencing Guidelines

Penalties can depend on the specific drug chargetype of drugs involved, criminal history, and other factors. For example, penalties for possession of a controlled substance are based on the amount of drugs, with different offenses for cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, or cannabis. The defendant can be charged with drug distribution or trafficking offenses if the amount of the controlled substance crosses a specific threshold.

Drug possession charges can range from a fine to life imprisonment. Minor drug crimes like simple possession or possession of drug paraphernalia can be a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor drug convictions generally have a maximum of up to one year in jail. Felony drug crimes are more serious and can result in 5 or more years in prison.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in Drug Crime Sentencing

Many states base their penalties on sentencing guidelines so that there is consistency in drug sentencing. However, there are also aggravating factors and mitigating factors that can increase or decrease the penalties. Aggravating factors that can increase the penalties include:

  • Crime involved injury or death
  • Use of a weapon
  • Cases involving a vulnerable victim
  • Cases involving a minor
  • A lengthy history of prior convictions

Mitigating factors that can reduce the penalties include:

  • Minor role in the crime
  • First offense
  • Showing remorse
  • Mental health conditions

If you have questions about reducing the penalties for your possible sentence, find a drug charge defense attorney for advice.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Many people convicted of drug crimes are sentenced under federal or state mandatory minimum sentencing laws. With a mandatory minimum, the judge may not be able to reduce the prison sentence, even if the judge thinks it is appropriate.

Many states have softened their use of harsh mandatory minimum sentences for first-time or nonviolent offenders. The penalties for simple possession vary widely across the country. In recent years, several jurisdictions have decriminalized the possession of small quantities of marijuana as an infraction instead of a misdemeanor.

Drug Court and Jail Alternatives

Some defendants with substance abuse problems can go through drug court instead of a regular criminal trial. A drug court’s purpose is to provide defendants an opportunity to get their lives back on track. Drug court eligibility requirements are set by state and local guidelines and are generally limited to nonviolent offenders.

As part of drug court, offenders may have to follow strict rules, including:

  • Participate in mental health and chemical treatment programs
  • Agree to regular drug testing
  • Community service
  • Check-in with drug court regularly so the judge can monitor their progress

Unlike criminal courts, drug courts are often managed by a non-adversarial team of judges, criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, substance abuse professionals, and social workers. Successful completion of a conditional discharge or intervention program can help defendants stay out of jail and avoid a criminal record.

How an Attorney Can Help After Drug Possession Charges

An experienced criminal defense attorney understands local drug crime laws and how to build a strong legal defense. Your attorney can investigate your arrest and take your case to court to get a not-guilty conviction or have the charges dropped.

Your attorney can also negotiate with the prosecutor to help you avoid a criminal record by getting your charges dismissed after probation, diversion, or substance abuse treatment. Contact a drug offense lawyer who can look at your specific drug case.

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