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Orlando Criminal Lawyer

When Is A Drug Charge A Federal Crime?


Drug offenses are among the most common criminal charges filed in the United States. According to data provided by the non-profit organization Drug Policy Facts, between 1.5 and 2 million people are arrested on drug-related offenses each year. Most drug charges fall under state law—but a person may face a federal drug charge in certain circumstances. In this article, our Orlando drug crimes defense lawyer explains when a drug offense can be charged as a federal crime.

Federal Drug Charges are Serious Crimes 

There are strict penalties for drug crimes under federal law. Under 21 USC §844, a person could be arrested for and charged with a federal drug possession offense. While penalties will vary based on several factors (the type of drug, the amount, etc.), a simple federal drug possession conviction could carry one year in prison. Federal authorities may also try a person with drug trafficking under 21 USC §841. Drug trafficking is an incredibly serious offense. It is a felony to manufacture, transport, or distribute a controlled substance without legal authorization.

Know the Circumstances in Which a Drug Charge Becomes a Federal Offense 

As noted previously, drug charges are generally state-based crimes. In fact, the large majority of drug offenses prosecuted in the United States are charged under state law instead of federal law. Still, a defendant could face federal drug charges in a number of different situations. Here are the most common in which federal prosecutors could get jurisdiction over a drug case:

  • Drug Crime on Federal Property: The federal government always has jurisdiction over crimes that happen on federal property. As an example, imagine that a person is arrested for drug possession within a federal building. They could be charged with a federal drug offense.
  • State Lines Were Crossed: Federal authorities have jurisdiction over many multi-state cases. In the context of drug crimes, this is most often an issue in complex drug trafficking and distribution cases. Indeed, federal drug charges are more likely to be filed in trafficking cases than in possession cases.
  • Connection to Other Federal Crime: If the drug offense is significantly connected to another type of federal crime—such as money laundering—it is possible that federal prosecutors may decide to take control of the case. These can be complicated drug charges as there are often many issues that need to be addressed.
  • The Use of the Mail Service: If the United States Postal Service (USPS) or any federally-regulated private carrier (UPS, FedEx, etc) is used as part of the drug offense, then the federal government can get jurisdiction over the case. In this circumstance, the federal government can get jurisdiction even if no person or substances ever left the State of Florida.

Call Our Orlando, FL Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Attorney

At The Baez Law Firm, our Orlando criminal defense lawyer is an aggressive, relentless, and justice-focused advocate for clients. If you are facing a state or federal drug charge, we are here to help. Give us a call now or contact us online to arrange a completely confidential consultation. Our firm provides drug crimes defense representation in Orlando and throughout Central Florida.



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