Q: What is considered a drug crime?
When it comes to drug crimes, there are several federal and state laws that cover them. While federal laws usually have longer sentences, state laws are generally narrower and may involve probation or short-term sentencing.
The prosecution of drug crimes is a top priority for law enforcement, particularly given the close connection between drug offending and crime, violent crime in particular, as US law enforcement statistics demonstrate.
Wikipedia has described ‘drug related crime’ as crime involving the possession, manufacture or distribution of drugs that are classified as those having the potential for abuse, being the commonly-known drugs like cocaine, heroin, morphine and amphetamines).
The opioid crisis is a key factor in the federal and state authorities cracking down on drug offences, which has also seen attempts to ensure drug offenders are diverted from repeat offending and retrained or re-educated to get them away from drug crime involvement. This month, President Biden has granted his first pardons for non-violent drug crime offenders.
Looking more closely at what amounts to a ‘drug crime’ we asked criminal defense law firm Weber Law in Colorado who are Aurora criminal defense lawyers who handle a wide range of criminal law work, including drug offences.
Bear in mind that different states have different laws, particularly in terms of Controlled Substance Law. Although every state has laws prohibiting the possession and use of ‘controlled substances’ as prescribed by federal law, the laws’ scope and application will differ. The government places controlled substances into five different categories, being schedules under the Controlled Substance Act.
What is considered drug paraphernalia?
The phrase drug paraphernalia refers to any type of equipment used to conceal, prepare, produce, inhale, or inject any type of illegal drug. You are breaking the law any time you sell, export, or import any type of paraphernalia used in relation to drugs. These may include pipes, bongs, syringes, or rolling papers.
Don’t make the mistake of believing that if your drug paraphernalia is labeled as legal to be used with tobacco, you will not get in trouble for having it when you are charged with a drug crime. It will not matter how the item looks or where you claim to have purchased or acquired it.
What does the law say regarding drug possession?
Drug possession laws vary from state to state, depending on the amount and type of drug involved. Both state and federal laws consider it a crime to possess any illicit substance, be it heroin, cocaine, marijuana, or any other. If you possess an illegal drug, you may be charged with simple possession or intent to sell or distribute.
If you have a small amount, you may be charged with simple possession, while a larger amount may be harder to explain and lead to charges of attempting to distribute, resulting in stiffer penalties.
How is drug manufacturing punished?
Drug manufacturing relates to any step involved in the production of any substance that is defined as an illegal drug. Prosecutors must generally prove that there was intent to manufacture to be able to convict anyone for an alleged drug manufacturing charge. If convicted, you could face steep fines and prison time.
Nowadays, cultivating or manufacturing marijuana is treated differently in certain states where personal and medical use is allowed.
What happens if you are charged with drug trafficking?
Both state and federal laws have determined that it is illegal to transport, sell, or import substances that have been deemed illegal controlled substances (as described, above).
A charge of drug trafficking and distribution is much more serious than possession because trafficking is generally associated with the transportation of large amounts of drugs. If you are caught with a large amount of drugs, it may be difficult to convince law enforcement officers that you had no intention of transporting or selling these substances, and you may be charged with distribution.
If you are convicted of these charges, you may face a prison sentence of 3 years to life.
How is drug dealing defined?
Drug dealing refers to the selling of illegal substances on a smaller scale. When a smaller amount of drugs is involved, the charges will generally be less harsh than those associated with trafficking. It is up to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to set federal penalties for those charged with drug dealing and trafficking but a full schedule of the drug trafficking penalties can be seen here.
If you are trying to sell less than 50 grams of marijuana, you may end up receiving a sentence of up to 5 years in prison plus a fine of $250,000. If you attempt to sell over 1,000 kilos of marijuana, you may receive a sentence that ranges between 10 years and life in prison.
Source: Weber Law, Colorado