Federal vs. State Drug Offenses
In North Carolina, you can be arrested and charged on either state or federal drug charges. It’s essential to understand what federal and state charges are and familiarize yourself with the difference between them if you face drug charges in North Carolina.
If you have been charged with a state or federal drug crime, reach out to the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Kurtz & Blum, PLLC, for a confidential consultation. Regardless of whether you’ve been charged with a state or federal crime, we are prepared to work tirelessly to defend you and exhaust all available legal options for reducing your charges or getting them dismissed.
Contact our North Carolina offices today to discuss your legal options. We’re in your corner.
How Are You Charged for Drugs?
In the legal world, drugs are commonly called “controlled substances.” This simply means that the government controls the use and distribution of scheduled drugs. Controlled substances are classified by “schedule.” There are five schedules, with Schedule I drugs having the most regulatory restrictions and Schedule V having the least.
Some of the controlled substances that fall under each schedule include:
- Schedule I – Heroin, LSD, ecstasy, magic mushrooms
- Schedule II – Morphine, cocaine, crystal meth, oxycodone, Adderall, Ritalin
- Schedule III – Steroids, codeine, ketamine, testosterone
- Schedule IV – Benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax, Ambien, Soma
- Schedule V – Robitussin AC, Motofen, Lyrica, Lomotil, and others
When you are charged with a drug-related crime, you are typically charged with either unlawful possession of a drug or drug trafficking. The penalties may vary depending on the drug’s schedule and the amount of the drug involved.
For instance, unlawful possession of most Schedule I drugs is considered a Class 1 felony in the federal system. Unlawful possession of a Schedule V drug, however, is only a misdemeanor. Drug trafficking is always a felony.
What Makes a Crime a Federal Offense?
While no guidelines dictate whether the state or the federal government should charge an offense, federal charges tend to arise from violations of specific federal statutes, while state charges tend to arise from violations of state laws.
When the state charges a person with a drug crime, it typically alleges unlawful possession of illegal drugs. Federal charges tend to have more to do with trafficking drugs and distributing them, often across state lines.
If the federal government brings charges, it is likely because the crime:
- Happened on federal property
- Involved a significant amount of drugs
- Involved drug trafficking activity that crossed state lines
- Involved a federal agency such as the DEA
- Involved use of a firearm
- Had ties to organized criminal activity or other federal crimes
Process Differences Between Federal and State Drug Charges
The process for federal and state cases is different, regardless of the charges. While the local district attorney prosecutes most state cases, the U.S. Attorney’s office prosecutes federal cases. State cases are typically prosecuted on the local level according to the state court system’s rules, while federal cases are prosecuted in federal court. Totally different procedures and rules govern each court system.
One significant difference is funding. Federal prosecutors tend to have many more resources at their fingertips, including federal law enforcement agencies, which they can use to investigate and pursue leads in a case.
If you have been charged with a federal drug crime, it is critical to retain legal counsel with experience litigating federal criminal cases. Some criminal defense attorneys don’t practice outside of state court. If you are charged with a federal crime, you will need an attorney who has a solid working knowledge of federal law enforcement agencies, federal drug laws, and federal court procedures.
At Kurtz & Blum, our drug crime defense attorneys practice in both state and federal courts. You can rest assured that whether you have been charged on the state or federal level, our team has the knowledge and experience to craft a strong defense strategy on your behalf.
Another significant difference between state and federal charges is the difference in penalties. Penalties for federal crimes are typically harsher than crimes tried in state court.
The severity of the penalty you may receive will depend heavily on various factors, including the schedule of the drug, the quantity of the drug, and whether you were engaged in trafficking and distribution. Penalties can also be more severe if you were distributing drugs to children.
It’s also worth noting that if you are found to be in possession of a significant quantity of drugs, you could be charged with trafficking or intent to distribute due to the implication that possessing a large amount of drugs presents.
Individuals convicted of state crimes serve their sentence in state prison, while those convicted in federal court serve their sentence in federal prison.
Legal Representation for Federal and State Drug Charges
Whether the state or the federal government has charged you with a drug-related crime, it is vital that you get help from a qualified criminal defense attorney. To successfully fight drug-related charges, you must work with an attorney who has the knowledge, resources, and experience needed to exhaust every legal defense possible.
While the penalties for drug charges, such as jail time and steep fines, can negatively affect your future, a drug conviction can also impact your life in other ways. It may hinder your ability to gain employment, rent a home, obtain financial aid for higher education purposes, your relationships, and much more.
Because so much is at stake, you should never attempt to represent yourself. At Kurtz & Blum, our attorneys have more than 50 years of combined experience. When you hire us, you don’t just get the resources of one attorney. You get the whole team. We will work tirelessly to craft a sound legal strategy on your behalf to seek the best possible outcome in your case.
Contact Kurtz & Blum Today
At Kurtz & Blum, our criminal defense attorneys have been serving clients since 1998, tackling the most challenging cases in state and federal courts. No matter what type of criminal charge you face, we are ready to represent your interests and pursue all possible legal defenses.
Contact us today for a confidential consultation.