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When Is a Drug Crime a Federal Offense?

Any crime can either be a state crime or a federal crime. State crimes are any that break a specific state law, while federal crimes are those that break a federal law. When a crime occurs in multiple jurisdictions, such as drug trafficking across borders, it can be charged as a federal crime. Depending on what crime you are accused of, you will be tried in state or federal courts. Federal crimes often involve longer and more intense criminal sentences than state crimes do.

Is my drug crime a federal charge?

Many drug crimes are both state crimes and federal crimes since the mere existence of many illegal drugs are a violation of federal law. Each state has their own drug laws. For example, marijuana is federally illegal, but completely legal in some states and legalized for medical purposes in others. Most drug arrests charged as a state crime involve the simple possession of a drug. Selling, distributing, or manufacturing any drug could be enough to land you in the federal court system.

A drug crime is a federal offense when:

  • Sale, distribution, or manufacture of any illegal drug takes places
  • A person crosses state lines or country borders with drugs
  • Use of a criminal enterprise occurs
  • They are found in a protected location zone
  • An individual is arrested by a federal officer
  • The decision is made with prosecution to charge as a federal crime

The biggest difference in how a crime is prosecuted is the sentencing that will come if the accused is found guilty. Federal crimes carry harsher penalties and longer sentences. State crimes tend to be convicted as misdemeanors and can involve short jail time, a small fine, and probation.

In addition to being charged for the drug crime, those charged with federal crimes may also be found to have participated in tax evasion for the product, illegally obtained firearms, or broken other laws. Since drug crimes can be charged as state crimes and federal crimes, it is important that anyone charged with a drug crime contacts a criminal defense attorney right away to defend them from these charges.