The federal Controlled Substances Act makes is a crime to distribute, manufacture, or possess with the intent to distribute or manufacture illicit drugs or substances that are regulated by the federal government, known as “controlled” substances. The federal government has taken a tough stance against drug-related activities that violate federal law, aggressively investigating drug crimes, increasing enforcement actions, and passing harsh sentencing laws, even for low-level offenses.
In fact, of the roughly 226,000 people incarcerated in federal prisons and jails in the United States, nearly 79,000 (35%) are serving time for drug offenses like drug distribution, drug manufacturing or drug trafficking. If you have been arrested or indicted for drug distribution or another federal drug-related offense, contact Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers as soon as possible to speak to our team of knowledgeable and dependable federal criminal defense lawyers. Our attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of clients facing federal drug charges and we can significantly improve your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome in your drug distribution case.
Federal Drug Distribution Charges
All drug-related crimes that involve the unlawful possession, use, sale or distribution of controlled substances are state and federal offenses, and any person arrested for committing a drug crime, like drug distribution, can end up facing charges in the federal court system. Most minor offenses involving possession of small quantities of drugs in California are handled by local law enforcement and tried in the state court system.
However, certain serious drug-related activities can trigger federal charges, as can large quantities of drugs or money, or the involvement of multiple people. For instance, if you are accused of manufacturing or trafficking drugs as part of a drug operation, you will most likely be charged with a federal crime. Often, such drug charges are accompanied by additional allegations involving money laundering, drug conspiracy or Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) violations.
Allegations of drug distribution can also lead to federal charges if you are arrested by federal agents, or if the alleged criminal activity took place on federal property (i.e. a military base or national park) or crossed state lines or international borders. For instance, if you traveled from California into another state to buy, sell, obtain or deliver an illicit drug or controlled substance, you could face federal drug distribution charges. The federal statute that covers drug distribution offenses is 21 U.S. Code § 841, which makes it a crime to knowingly or intentionally:
1. Manufacture, distribute, dispense, or possess with the intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense, a controlled substance; or
2. Create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with the intent to distribute or dispense a counterfeit substance.
Pursuant to this law, even being caught in possession of a large quantity of drugs, whether or not you actually intended to sell the drugs, could put you at risk for federal drug distribution charges. Smuggling drugs into the United States from another country is also a federal offense, and if you are accused of importing or smuggling cocaine or another controlled substance into the U.S. from outside the country, you could be charged with unlawful drug importation or drug smuggling in federal court.
Drugs and Substances Regulated by the Federal Government
The federal government regulates the use, possession, manufacture, sale and distribution of illegal drugs, prescription drugs, substances and certain chemicals used to make drugs that pose a potential risk of abuse or addiction. These are known as controlled substances and the substances are assigned to one of five distinct categories, or schedules, based on their accepted medical use and abuse or dependency potential.
Drugs in Schedule I have a high potential for abuse and dependence and no currently accepted medical use (this includes marijuana, which is illegal under federal law), while drugs in Schedule V have the lowest potential for abuse. The following are some examples of drugs found in each schedule, although it is important to note that a substance need not be listed as a controlled substance to be treated as such for the purposes of criminal prosecution, according to the DEA:
• Schedule I: Marijuana, heroin, LSD
• Schedule II: Cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone
• Schedule III: Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids
• Schedule IV: Xanax, Ambien, Darvocet
• Schedule V: Robitussin AC, Lyrica, Lomotil
Penalties for Drug Distribution
One of the most important things to understand about serious federal drug charges like drug distribution is that these kinds of offenses carry mandatory minimum prison sentences. Under California state law, first-time drug offenders have several opportunities to avoid jail time, but the federal statute that covers drug distribution offenses includes a specific minimum term of imprisonment, which means a conviction almost always results in incarceration.
The specific penalties associated with a federal drug distribution conviction vary considerably based on the facts of the case, namely the type and amount of the illicit drug or controlled substance involved in the offense.
Consider this as an example: If you are convicted on charges of distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute five grams of methamphetamine, 100 grams of heroin or 100 kilograms of marijuana, the minimum sentence that will be handed down by the court upon conviction is five years and the maximum sentence is 40 years. And the higher the quantity of the controlled substance involved in the drug distribution offense, the more severe the penalty. For example, if the alleged criminal activity involves 50 grams of methamphetamine, one kilogram of heroin or 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, the minimum sentence will instead be 10 years and the maximum sentence will be life in prison. The fines associated with drug distribution offenses are also substantial.
For Schedule V drugs, the fines resulting from a conviction can range from $100,000 to $250,000. For Schedule I to Schedule IV drugs, the fines can range from $1 million to $50 million.
In some cases, the court may impose more severe penalties on federal defendants in drug distribution cases depending on the existence of certain specified circumstances. For instance, if you are convicted on charges of distributing drugs to someone who is pregnant or under the age of 21, if the alleged drug distribution offense occurs on or near a school zone, or if you have a prior conviction for a serious drug felony or serious violent felony, you could face additional penalties upon conviction.
For a drug distribution offense carrying a minimum penalty of five years to 40 years that occurs after a prior conviction for a serious drug-related or violent felony, the sentence would be increased to 10 years to life. A minimum penalty of 10 years would become 20 years to life in this case.
Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you are facing federal charges for drug distribution, your entire future is at risk. Unlike state drug crimes in California, federal charges for drug distribution carry mandatory minimum sentences. Depending on the severity of the crime, you could even face a term of life imprisonment for federal drug distribution, which is why you need an attorney on your side who can protect your rights, your freedom and your future. Drug distribution is a serious offense and the consequences of a drug distribution conviction can throw your entire life and the lives of your loved ones off course in the blink of an eye.
At Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers, we understand that federal drug charges are scary, and we know that it can be difficult to know where to turn for help when your future and freedom are on the line. That is why we always recommend consulting an attorney as soon as possible after learning that you are facing criminal charges, to maximize your chances of success.
Any time you are confronted with a federal drug charge, the best way to protect yourself against the significant penalties assigned to drug crimes is to hire a criminal defense lawyer with experience handling drug-related cases in federal court. A seasoned defense attorney will have the knowledge and skill necessary to develop the strongest possible defense based on the specific facts of your case and that is exactly what you need.
Our Federal Defense Attorneys Can Represent Your Case
Federal drug cases are some of the most commonly and aggressively prosecuted cases in the United States, and drug distribution allegations are not something that should be taken lightly, whether the drug you are accused of distributing is heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or marijuana.
The legal, personal and professional implications of a drug distribution conviction can be life-changing, even for marijuana-related charges, so don’t hesitate to seek legal counsel immediately following your arrest or the moment you learn that you are the subject of a federal drug investigation.
The federal government has vowed to use every resources at its disposal to charge and punish drug crimes like drug distribution and drug trafficking, and you will need a knowledgeable, reliable legal advocate on your side who is committed to seeing your case through to a fair and reasonable resolution. Contact the top-rated fat Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers today to schedule a free initial consultation.