Federal vs. State Drug Crimes
Columbia Drug Crimes Attorney: Over 20 Years of Experience
If you are facing state or federal drug charges, whether drug possession or trafficking, the consequences will be severe. However, a good attorney can argue for minimum sentencing. With over 20 years of experience on his hands and time spent as a former prosecutor, attorney Marion M. Moses will develop a personalized and results-driven approach to build your defense. Penalties for any drug crime could range from minor consequences at the state level to severe ones at the federal level, so it will be important to have an experienced attorney who can identify the gravity of your charge.
What Is Considered a Federal Drug Crime?
Federal drug charges may occur in a few situations, such as if the drugs in question crossed state lines, if a federal agent made the arrest, or if the arrest resulted from federal surveillance. Local authorities on occasion also transfer cases to federal prosecution when they lack the resources or expertise to handle on their own.
The main factors that influence the charges and sentencing for federal drug crimes are:
- Type of drug – Federal authorities rarely get involved in cases concerning marijuana, unless it involves a “grow operation” or trafficking large amounts.
- Amount in weight – This determines whether the charge is simple possession, possession with intent to distribute, or drug trafficking.
- Previous convictions – Previous convictions trigger additional prison time under federal guidelines.
With this in mind, it is likely that if you are a first-time offender charged with possession of a small bag of marijuana, for example, you aren’t facing federal prison. If you have been pulled over with 100 grams of heroin and have prior convictions, though, you could face severe penalties at the federal level.
Note that drug trafficking charges can be filed at the federal level for the following quantities:
- 1,000 kg of marijuana, or 1,000+ marijuana plants
- 500 grams of cocaine or any cocaine mixture
- 5 grams of pure meth or 50 grams of meth mixture
- 100 grams of heroin
- 1 gram of LSD mixture
What Is Considered a State Drug Crime?
In state courts, drug trafficking charges generally include the crime of possession and intent to distribute a large amount. It is the most serious drug crime at the state level and therefore carries severe penalties.
A drug trafficking charge depends on the amount of drugs and the controlled substance in question:
- 10 pounds or more of marijuana
- 10 grams or more of cocaine or any cocaine mixture
- 10 grams or more of meth
- 4 grams or more of heroin, morphine, or another opiate
- 100 tablets or more of LSD
- 100 tablets or more of MDMA or ecstasy
What are the Penalties for Federal Drug Charges?
There are minimum and maximum sentences for federal drug trafficking charges. First-time offenders can face between 5 and 40 years in prison and up to $5 million in fines. A sentence may be further increased if the offender possessed a weapon or had a leadership role in the offense. For instance, if any person is injured or dies during a trafficking crime, the defendant can be sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
Once the amount of the controlled substance reaches a certain level, authorities can charge possession with intent, drug trafficking, or distribution. The penalties for these crimes are more severe:
- Marijuana trafficking (10 pounds or more) – 1 to 10 years in prison for a first offense, 5 to 20 years for a second offense, and up to 25 years for a third offense
- Marijuana trafficking (100 pounds or more) – minimum sentence of 25 years
- Cocaine trafficking (between 10 grams and 28 grams) – 3 to 10 years in prison for a first offense, 5 to 30 years for a second offense, and 25 to 30 years for a third offense
- Cocaine trafficking (28 grams or more) – 7 to 25 years for a first offense, 7 to 30 years for a second offense, 25 to 30 years for a third offense; the minimum sentence for 100 grams or more is 25 years
- Trafficking in heroin, morphine, or other opiates (at least 4 grams but less than 14) – 7 to 25 years in prison for a first offense, minimum of 25 years for a second offense
- Trafficking in heroin, morphine, or other opiates (14 grams or more) – minimum sentence of 25 years
Note that the defendant is subject to twice the maximum punishment for a first offense and three times the maximum punishment for a second offense if the crime occurs in or on the following locations:
- Within 1,000 feet of a school, playground, or public housing, or
- Within 100 feet of a public or private youth center, public swimming pool, or video arcade facility
What are the Penalties for Sentencing for State Drug Crimes?
South Carolina’s drug sentencing schedule divides sentences into 5 different categories based on the type of drug and quantity the defendant is arrested with. Substances heavily punished under the state’s drug schedule for possession include:
- Marijuana (less than 1 ounce) – up to 30 days in jail for a first offense and up to 1 year for a second offense.
- Marijuana (1 ounce or more) – prison term of up to 5 years for a first offense, up to 10 years for a second offense, 5 to 20 years for a third offense, and up to 30 years for subsequent offenses.
- Cocaine (less than 10 grams) – up to 3 years in prison for a first offense, up to 5 years for a second offense, and up to 10 years for a third offense.
Heroin, morphine, or other opiates (less than 4 grams) – up to 2 years in jail for a first offense and up to 5 years for
a second offense
Beware that you may also be subject to fines in addition to the jail time listed above. It is also worth noting that you may be charged for both state and federal drug crimes, most of which may occur when you possess and traffic drugs within or across states.
If you are facing federal or state drug crime charges, seek legal counsel immediately. These offenses are not to be taken lightly, even if the consequences for a first offense might be minor. Drug possession and trafficking are very serious offenses at the state and federal level, so help from a detail-oriented attorney like Marion M. Moses will allow you more opportunity to secure the most favorable outcome for your situation. Attorney Moses will handle your case from start to finish; he can potentially make the difference between days in jail and years, depending on your offense.
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