Drug Crimes: The Criteria for Federal Charges

Attorney Andrew S. Birrell Sworn in as Treasurer of Criminal Defense Bar
August 18, 2020
What Constitutes A Drug Offense
October 6, 2020

MN Criminal Law FirmThe following are the criteria that go into determining whether a drug crime is a federal offense.

Are Federal Officers Or Systems Involved?

You will likely be charged with a federal crime if you are taken into custody by a federal officer. This happens frequently when local officers are working in conjunction with federal officers on a case. Also, if the drug use or possession happened on land owned by the government, like at a national park, federal charges often result.

Is The Charge Serious?

There is a difference between possessing a drug and attempting to sell a drug. If you are charged with possession of a drug, that charge is more likely to stay at the state level. However, if you were trying to distribute or traffic the drugs, your case may move to federal court. If it appears that you were trying to profit from your crime, it will be handled differently than if you were not. The circumstances surrounding your charge, therefore, are important.

Is There An Informant?

If someone made a plea deal to avoid a more severe sentence, and they give up information about you as a result, you could be charged with a federal crime. In part, this depends on that individual’s circumstances; if they were facing federal charges, you will likely be facing federal charges as well.

Has A Decision Been Made?

When it comes to drug crimes, the state and federal government often work together. It is not unusual for prosecutors at both levels to come together and decide they want to try the case in federal court. They often agree on this decision because the sentences are typically more severe at the federal level.

Drug Charges at the Federal and State Level

Individuals who have not been charged before, and who appear in state court, generally will not receive as severe of a sentence as those that are facing a federal drug charge. Someone that receives a “guilty” verdict in a federal court often goes to prison for a long time, in part because there are guidelines requiring a minimum sentence term.

It is possible to appeal a conviction in a federal court. However, if the defendant enters into a plea deal, it becomes more difficult to do so, as there are only certain circumstances that warrant an appeal. It is also important to keep in mind that there is no federal parole program, and that while there is a probation option when it comes to sentencing, this is very rarely utilized. As a result, a convicted offender in the federal court can expect to go to prison for a long time. Their sentence is almost always longer than when someone is convicted by the state court.

Appearing in a federal court for drug charges may also mean that additional charges are pursued. For example, an offender may find themselves dealing with a RICO violation (racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations). A conviction for any additional charges can lead to more prison time.

What Can You Do?

If you find yourself facing a drug charge in a federal court, you need an experienced legal team to help you move forward. Get in touch with Birrell Law Firm immediately; we’ll review your case and provide you with the help and support you need during this challenging time.

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