Drug Crimes

Drug Crimes

Overview

Drug Crimes – Overview:

In the United States, drug crimes are prosecuted in both federal and state courts. In general, states will prosecute drug crimes that occur within the state. The U.S. Attorney generally prosecutes drug crimes that are larger in scope and that cross state boundaries. Federal courts have a particular interest in interstate drug trafficking cases and have sole authority to prosecute drug crimes that involve foreign countries.

Drugs are Classified:

Drugs are classified according to the federal drug policy as proscribed in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The CSA regulates virtually all aspects of most drugs, including:

·       Manufacture

·       Importation

·       Possession

·       Use

·       Distribution

What is a Controlled Substance?

A controlled substance is a substance that is subject to the laws and regulations of the federal or state government. The “substance” may be a manufactured drug or a chemical that is used in the creation of the drug:

·       Heroin;

·       Poppy that is used to manufacture heroin

·       Cocaine;

·       Coca leaf used to manufacture cocaine

The Controlled Substances Act Establishes Five Drug “Schedules,” or Categories:

Factors that are considered in the drug’s classification:

·       The drug’s potential for abuse,

·       The accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S., and

·       Whether the drug may lead to psychological or physical dependence.

Drug Crimes Vary:

Drug crimes vary and include:

·       Possession

·       Possession with intent to distribute

·       Distribution

·       Manufacturing

·       Cultivation

·       Growing marijuana plants

·       Growing illegal mushrooms

·       Creating illegal drugs utilizing chemicals – e.g., LSD, Methamphetamine

Prescription Drug Fraud:

Prescription drug fraud is becoming more and more common – and frequent. There are many methods that are used to commit prescription drug fraud, particularly to obtain painkillers, sedatives and “speed,” including:

·       Altering a legitimate prescription by increasing the quantity of medication, usually tablets

·       Calling in a false prescription, using the doctor’s DEA control number

·       Utilizing a computer to duplicate and/or recreate a prescription

·       Using the identity of another person to obtain their prescription medication

·       Printing fraudulent prescription blanks and completing them with fraudulent information

·       Stealing a prescription pad from a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic

Penalties for prescription drug fraud vary from a verbal warning to years in prison, depending on:

·       Defendant’s criminal history, if any

·       Quantity and class of medication

·       Circumstances of the offense

Federal Penalties for Drug Offenses:

Generally, federal drug offenses may be subject to the following penalties as is stated in 21 U.S.C. Sec. 841:

Name of drug:

·       Heroin

·       Cocaine

·       PCP

·       LSD

·       Marijuana

·       Methamphetamine

Penalty, greatest amount or weight:

·       First felony drug offense: 10 years to life

·       Second felony drug offense: 20 years to life

·       Third felony drug offense: Life

Penalty, lesser amount or weight:

·       First felony drug offense: 5 years to life

·       Second felony drug offense: 10 years to life

State Laws Control State Drug Offenses:

Every state enacts its own laws to regulate illegal drug activity. Most states follow the federal classification guidelines as stated in the Controlled Substances Act. State and federal drug laws, however, are often considered to be relatively ineffective. The so called “War On Drugs” is considered a misguided effort and waste of tax funds. For example,

·       One-third of California’s prison population is incarcerated for drug offenses

·       An estimated 50% of California inmates are addicted to drugs

There is a growing trend in the United States to help drug offenders through treatment instead of incarceration. In addition to saving tax dollars, the movement is considered a humanitarian approach that is appropriate for nonviolent offenders.

Examples of Categories of Drug Laws:

While many drug offenses can be classified as either possession, sale, distribution or cultivation, there are many other drug-related offenses that fall within the primary classification. Some examples include:

·       Possession and sale of a vapor-releasing substance

·       Sale of precursor or regulated chemicals

·       Manufacturing methamphetamine under circumstances that cause physical injury to a minor

·       Involving or using minor in drug offenses

·       Sale or manufacture of dangerous drug in drug-free school zone

·       Possession, manufacture, delivery and advertisement of drug paraphernalia

·       Use of wire communication or electronic communication in drug related transactions

·       Unlawful substances; threshold amounts

·       Using building for sale or manufacture of dangerous or narcotic drugs

Defenses for Drug Charges:

An arrest is not a conviction. In order to convict a defendant, constitutional due process protections must not be violated. A violation of a due process right may invalidate an arrest and/or may result in the suppression of evidence. This lack of evidence may result in an immediate dismissal. Below are some examples of defenses that may be utilized in a drug case:

·       Insufficient, inadequate evidence

·       Police procedural misconduct

·       Police entrapment

·       Lack of probable cause

·       Unlawful search and seizure

·       Invalid search warrant

·       Lack of search warrant

·       Miranda Rights against self-incriminate was not read to arrestee

·       Arresting officer did not have jurisdiction where the arrest was made

Conclusion:

The consequences for drug crimes vary from nonexistent to severe. A survey of the laws in the various states shows a wide range of punishments and a complete lack of consistency in those punishments. Drug laws in the United States are some of the harshest in the world. Drug courts have emerged over the past few decades; some states offer alternatives to incarceration. Treatment is the answer to personal users, not incarceration. 

What are Drug Crimes?

In the United States, drug crimes are prosecuted in both federal and state courts. In general, states will prosecute drug crimes that occur within the state. The U.S. Attorney generally prosecutes drug crimes that are larger in scope and that cross state boundaries. Federal courts have a particular interest in interstate drug trafficking cases and have sole authority to prosecute drug crimes that involve foreign countries.

How Drug Crimes Are Classified

Drugs are classified according to the federal drug policy as proscribed in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The CSA regulates virtually all aspects of most drugs, including:

  • Manufacture 
  • Importation
  • Possession
  • Use
  • Distribution

Controlled Substances

A controlled substance is a substance that is subject to the laws and regulations of the federal or state government. The “substance” may be a manufactured drug or a chemical that is used in the creation of the drug:

  • Heroin;
  • Poppy that is used to manufacture heroin
  • Cocaine;
  • Coca leaf used to manufacture cocaine
  • Marijuana

The Controlled Substances Act Establishes Five Drug “Schedules,” or Categories:

Factors that are considered in the drug’s classification:

  • The drug’s potential for abuse,
  • The accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S., and
  • Whether the drug may lead to psychological or physical dependence.

Types of Drug Crimes

There are a variety of drug crimes that a person can be accussed of or sentenced for after an arrest.  Drug crimes have been broken down into very specific areas.  The include but:

  • Possession
  • Possession with intent to distribute
  • Distribution
  • Manufacturing
  • Cultivation
  • Growing marijuana plants
  • Growing illegal mushrooms
  • Creating illegal drugs utilizing chemicals – e.g., LSD, Methamphetamine

The penalties of these crimes vary in accordance with the sevarity, quantitiy, people involved, location, etc.

Prescription Drug Fraud

Prescription drug fraud is becoming more and more common – and frequent. There are many methods that are used to commit prescription drug fraud, particularly to obtain painkillers, sedatives and “speed,” including:

  • Altering a legitimate prescription by increasing the quantity of medication, usually tablets
  • Calling in a false prescription, using the doctor’s DEA control number
  • Utilizing a computer to duplicate and/or recreate a prescription
  • Using the identity of another person to obtain their prescription medication
  • Printing fraudulent prescription blanks and completing them with fraudulent information
  • Stealing a prescription pad from a doctor’s office, hospital or clinic

Penalties for prescription drug fraud vary from a verbal warning to years in prison, depending on:

  • Defendant’s criminal history, if any
  • Quantity and class of medication
  • Circumstances of the offense

Penalties for Drug Offenses

Generally, federal drug offenses may be subject to the following penalties as is stated in 21 U.S.C. Sec. 841:

Name of drug:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • PCP
  • LSD
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamine

Penalty, greatest amount or weight:

  • First felony drug offense: 10 years to life
  • Second felony drug offense: 20 years to life
  • Third felony drug offense: Life

Penalty, lesser amount or weight:

  • First felony drug offense: 5 years to life
  • Second felony drug offense: 10 years to life

State Drug Offense Laws

Every state enacts its own laws to regulate illegal drug activity. Most states follow the federal classification guidelines as stated in the Controlled Substances Act. State and federal drug laws, however, are often considered to be relatively ineffective. The so called “War On Drugs” is considered a misguided effort and waste of tax funds. For example,

  • One-third of California’s prison population is incarcerated for drug offenses
  • An estimated 50% of California inmates are addicted to drugs

There is a growing trend in the United States to help drug offenders through treatment instead of incarceration. In addition to saving tax dollars, the movement is considered a humanitarian approach that is appropriate for nonviolent offenders.

Drug Law Categories

While many drug offenses can be classified as either possession, sale, distribution or cultivation, there are many other drug-related offenses that fall within the primary classification. Some examples include:

  • Possession and sale of a vapor-releasing substance
  • Sale of precursor or regulated chemicals
  • Manufacturing methamphetamine under circumstances that cause physical injury to a minor
  • Involving or using minor in drug offenses
  • Sale or manufacture of dangerous drug in drug-free school zone
  • Possession, manufacture, delivery and advertisement of drug paraphernalia
  • Use of wire communication or electronic communication in drug related transactions
  • Unlawful substances; threshold amounts
  • Using building for sale or manufacture of dangerous or narcotic drugs

Defenses for Drug Charges

An arrest is not a conviction. In order to convict a defendant, constitutional due process protections must not be violated. A violation of a due process right may invalidate an arrest and/or may result in the suppression of evidence. This lack of evidence may result in an immediate dismissal. Below are some examples of defenses that may be utilized in a drug case:

  • Insufficient, inadequate evidence
  • Police procedural misconduct
  • Police entrapment
  • Lack of probable cause
  • Unlawful search and seizure
  • Invalid search warrant
  • Lack of search warrant
  • Miranda Rights against self-incriminate was not read to arrestee
  • Arresting officer did not have jurisdiction where the arrest was made

Conclusion:

The consequences for drug crimes vary from nonexistent to severe. A survey of the laws in the various states shows a wide range of punishments and a complete lack of consistency in those punishments. Drug laws in the United States are some of the harshest in the world. Drug courts have emerged over the past few decades; some states offer alternatives to incarceration. Treatment is the answer to personal users, not incarceration. 

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