Federal Drug Crime Laws

In July 1973, President Richard Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to pursue "an all-out global war on the drug menace." When the DEA was established, it had 1,470 Special Agents and a budget just shy of $75 million. Things have changed substantially over the last decades. In 2008, the DEA had close to 5,235 Special Agents and a budget of $2.4 billion.

The federal government of the U.S. spent more than $15 billion in 2010 on the war on drugs. This means the government was fighting drug crime at a rate of approximately $500 per second. State and local governments spent at least $25 billion. And, according to reports, someone is arrested for violating a drug law every 19 seconds.

Federal Drug Laws

There are both state and federal laws against illegal drugs. One of the main differences is that federal law punishes drug trafficking while state law punishes possession. Another important difference between the two jurisdictions is that the federal crimes tend to impose harsher and longer sentences.

Depending upon the defendant's criminal history and age, state laws often charge the crimes as misdemeanors. The defendant is put on probation and may serve a short term in jail or pay a modest fine.

Controlled substances, or substances whose use and distribution are governed by law, are categorized at different levels of seriousness called schedules. The schedules range from Schedule I (for marijuana, for example) to cough syrup containing minimal amounts of codeine, which would be Schedule V.

Some other terms involved in describing drug violations include:

  • Trafficking, while the word may seem to imply crossing state lines, is applied however, to the amount of drugs being sold or distributed.
  • Manufacturing or cultivation of a controlled substance is a crime, whether the substances are created from natural products, such as marijuana plants, or chemical products such as LSD, cocaine or methamphetamine.
  • Possession. This can refer to actual possession, that is carrying it on your person, or constructive possession. Constructive possession means that someone has access to drugs, such as in a school locker, while not needing to be carrying them on them.

When possession of a controlled substance involves large amounts of that drug, the law may then consider it to be other crimes such as trafficking, distribution or manufacturing, depending upon the circumstances.

In June 2011, the director of U.S. drug control policy cited eight counties in the U.S. as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas which will be the focus of investigations. These areas are:

  • Orange County, New York
  • Mendocino County, California
  • Porter County, Indiana
  • Lexington County, South Carolina
  • Richland County, South Carolina
  • Putnam County, West Virginia
  • Mercer County, West Virginia

Gil Kerlikowske said "by designating these counties as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, we will create a powerful catalyst for cooperation among federal, state, local, and tribal agencies working to make our communities healthier and safer." Kerlikowske is Director of National Drug Control Policy.

Contact a Federal Drug Crime Lawyer

If you or someone you love has been charged with committing a federal drug crime, you will need the help of a lawyer with experience in successfully defending people fighting such charges. Drug crimes are serious offenses and the penalties are severe. To schedule a consultation with an experienced and highly successful federal drug crimes lawyer, contact David M. Dudley.

Attorney Dudley has extensive experience defending against federal drug crimes charges and has represented several individuals that were charged under federal organized crime statutes.