What is a Federal Narcotics Violation?
Using, possessing, or distributing illegal narcotics (drugs) is strictly prohibited and carries heavy penalties. Federal laws provide for mandatory prison sentences for many narcotics offenses, with consequences becoming even more severe when the usage of these substances leads to the death or serious injury of an individual.
Federal narcotics violations require the involvement of interstate commerce to be prosecuted. If no movement across state lines is part of the accusation, then there is likely no federal cause of action against you unless some action took place on federal land or involved some other reason to trigger federal law. Therefore, it is critical to review these factors when considering if you may potentially be found guilty of a felony drug charge. If you are facing a federal drug charge or are being investigated for one, then it is imperative to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney immediately.
Controlled Substance Schedules Explained
Controlled substances are divided into five categories, or "schedules," depending on their potential for abuse and dependency.
Schedule I drugs have the highest potential for abuse and therefore have no accepted medical use in the United States. Common Schedule I drugs include heroin, ecstasy, and marijuana.
Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse but can be used safely under medical supervision. Examples of Schedule II drugs include morphine, codeine, methamphetamine, and cocaine.
Schedule III drugs have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule I or II drugs but still require a prescription. These may include anabolic steroids, codeine combined with non-narcotic medication, and ketamine.
Schedule IV drugs are considered to have a low risk of abuse and dependence relative to other controlled substances and may also require a prescription from a doctor. Examples of Schedule IV drugs include alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and zolpidem (Ambien).
Finally, there is Schedule V which contains substances that have a very low potential for abuse relative to other controlled substances. This schedule includes medications containing limited amounts of certain narcotic medications, such as cough suppressants with small amounts of hydrocodone or codeine. These schedules determine the seriousness and potential severity of punishment for any related criminal charges.
What are the Potential Penalties for Federal Narcotics Violations?
The potential penalties for federal drug convictions under 21 USC § 841 will vary depending on the type and amount of drugs involved in the offense, as well as any prior convictions. The most common penalty is a fine or imprisonment, but other options may include probation and community service. Individuals convicted of federal drug crimes may also be subject to forfeiture proceedings which allow the government to seize property related to the offense.
Certain drug offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences that must be imposed regardless of circumstances. For example, an individual convicted of distributing five kilograms or more of cocaine base faces a ten-year minimum prison sentence. If the defendant has a prior conviction involving an illegal substance, they may face a longer sentence - up to life in prison.
What are Some Common Defenses of a Federal Drug Crime?
There are a variety of potential defenses to federal drug charges, ranging from technical defenses to constitutional claims. A common defense is known as an entrapment defense, which can be used when the defendant is persuaded to commit a crime by law enforcement. In order for this defense to be successful, the defendant must demonstrate that they wouldn't have committed the crime without pressure or coercion from law enforcement.
Another defense is challenging the legality of the search or seizure. If evidence obtained during a search or seizure violates someone's Fourth Amendment rights, then it may be excluded from court proceedings on constitutional grounds. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures and often requires warrants to be issued. Police may avoid the warrant requirement to the Fourth Amendment if a valid exception is present due to the circumstances of the search.
In What Court Will Your Case Be Heard?
Cases that involve federal law in the United States are typically processed in the relevant federal district court. In Pennsylvania, this means your case will be heard in one of the three districts – Central, Middle, or Eastern. The particular court your case is tried depends on your geographical location. For an alleged federal narcotics violation in either the Central or Eastern District, the relevant court would either be Middle District Court or Eastern District Court, respectively.
What If I Want to Appeal?
If you are not satisfied with a decision made by a federal district court, you may file an appeal in the appropriate federal appellate court. The United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals is the court of appeals responsible for handling appeals from the Middle and Eastern Districts of Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court is the only higher remaining court.
How Hiring an Experienced Attorney Can Help
If you have been charged with a federal narcotics violation, it is essential to have experienced legal representation on your side. An experienced lawyer will be able to properly evaluate your case and decide the best approach for you. Your attorney can also help you determine whether to go to trial or negotiate with the prosecution. If you need help with this serious matter, contact us at the Lento Law Firm.
Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice
If you are being prosecuted for federal narcotics violations, then it is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has defended people facing criminal charges in several jurisdictions. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact them online to learn why hiring the Lento Law Firm is the right choice to help defend your federal case.