Federal Drug Crimes: Charges, Penalties & Defense

American flag and gavel depicting federal drug crimes

Have you been charged with a drug crime offense?

Maybe you are facing both state and federal drug charges, and you are wondering how this could have happened. How could you be facing two sets of charges at the same time?

The first thing you need to know is that drug charges can be both federal and state at any time. Drug offenses can be prosecuted by both the state and the federal government.

You can be prosecuted by the federal government, by the state, or by both without either the federal law enforcement agency or the state doing anything against the law — the how, why and where depends on several factors.

The federal government has the right to prosecute criminals as well as each state. There are some crimes where only the state has jurisdiction, some over which only the federal government has authority and some which may be prosecuted by both or either.

For example, in the famous Larry Nassar case, Nassar was convicted of both state and federal charges. His crimes involved overseas travel and some of them did not.

Drug Trafficking

If the crime you are accused of committing involved crossing state lines or country lines, the charges will be federal. Drug trafficking is bringing drugs across state lines and takes up the majority of federal drug crime cases.

Trafficking in multiple states is a surefire way of incurring federal drug charges. However, even if you only cross from one state to another, your case will become federal.

If you are caught smuggling drugs into the United States from another country, this also counts as a federal drug charge.

Federal Property, Federal Agent or a Federal Informant

Even if you never leave the state, your drug charge can become federal if:

  • It was committed on federal property
  • A federal informant was the one who alerted the authorities to the crime,
  • Or a federal agency arrested you.

For instance, if you are charged with a drug crime that occurred on federal property – like a national park, a federal prison or a military base – it will be charged as a federal crime.

Likewise, if you are part of a case that is being investigated by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) or the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency), your charges are likely to be federal.

Other Reasons Your Drug Charges May Be Federal

Sometimes a state needs the federal government to prosecute cases it doesn’t have the resources to investigate.

A federal prosecutor may request jurisdiction over your case if it is part of a bigger initiative, like cracking down on drug crime in a specific area or investigating a particular trafficker.

What’s Different About Federal Charges?

The main difference – and the reason it matters to you if you are faced with federal drug charges – between state and federal charges is the severity of the penalty.

State drug penalties are almost always much less harsh than federal penalties.

Federal sentencing guidelines for trafficking 50 grams of methamphetamine indicate a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The same crime in Michigan carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and/or $250,000. There’s a vast difference between 20 years in prison and spending the rest of your life there.

Federal Drug Crimes Attorney in Michigan

If you are facing a federal drug crimes charge, you may be tempted to give up your case as a lost cause.

However, it’s not an automatic win for the federal government and loss for you. It’s imperative that you hire a knowledgeable attorney who has litigated cases in federal court.

Contact my office today if you or your loved-one need representation for a federal drug crime.

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