Under federal law, drug crime can mean serious consequences and heavy penalties. Not only that, drug crimes can also affect you for the rest of your life, making it difficult to get some types of jobs or leaving you struggling to move forward with your life. After an accusation of drug use or trafficking, you need an attorney dedicated to protecting your freedoms. Contact The Zeiger Firm today at 215-546-0340 or by filling out our online contact form.
Types of Drug Crimes
Many times, law enforcement chooses to prosecute drug crimes at the federal level. When considering what penalties you will face for your drug crime, however, you must consider the type of crime.
If the police catch you with drugs on your person or stowed away in your property—in your room or your vehicle, for example—you may face possession charges. Federal law prohibits the possession of controlled substances, including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. While some states have legalized recreational or medical marijuana use, Pennsylvania law still prohibits recreational use of marijuana, which means you can still face possession charges for having or using it.
Possession of Paraphernalia
Possessing drugs can land you with a possession charge. Many people, however, fail to realize that possession of drug paraphernalia can also carry a heavy penalty. Possession of paraphernalia includes any items used to create or use these controlled substances: crack pipes, bongs, rolling papers, and syringes, for example, depending on the type of drug and how the user takes it in. Possession of paraphernalia may also give police officers just cause to look into possession of illegal drugs.
Drug manufacturing charges can include any step in the process of creating or manufacturing an illegal drug. In some cases, like meth, simply creating the drug poses a substantial danger both to the creators and to anyone else in the area. Often, drug creation creates highly hazardous or flammable substances as a byproduct, leading to substantial charges.
If you share the drugs in your possession with others, whether you sell them or not, you may face distribution charges. Distribution charges may increase in severity when your customers include minors.
When you move drugs across state lines, especially in high quantities, you may face drug trafficking charges. Drug trafficking typically carries some of the highest penalties offered to drug crimes. If you possess large quantities of an illegal drug, especially if you possess more than can be reasonably used by one individual, the police may suspect you of drug trafficking and move to investigate and, ultimately, convict you on those counts.
Penalties for Drug Crimes
Penalties for drug crimes vary significantly, even at the federal level. In many cases, drug crime penalties depend on the type of drug involved, how much of it, and whether you attempted to sell or distribute to minors.
Many drug crimes carry mandatory prison time as part of the penalty. In the case of minor possession charges, especially of drugs like marijuana, which many states have legalized, you may face only 1-2 years in prison. More severe charges, however, may lead to a lifetime sentence.
Prison time does not just restrict your freedoms during the period of your incarceration. It also leads to a range of problems upon release, many of which you might not consider before your trial.
- Prison time means a break in your employment. When potential employers look at your record, they will see years that you have spent in prison instead of working. You may miss training opportunities or fall behind in your industry, rather than keeping up and remaining competitive.
- Prison time means missing out on memories with loved ones. During your incarceration, you will miss out on holidays, birthdays, and special events. You may miss the chance to build relationships or discover that relationships fade during your prison time.
Many expenses add up fast after a drug conviction. Not only will you need to pay legal fees associated with your trial and defense, you will face serious penalties—between around $10,000 and $250,000—for your crimes. These fines can add up fast, creating significant restrictions that make it difficult for many people to retain control of their personal property after conviction. In some cases, your family may bear the brunt of this loss as they sell your home or vehicle to cover these fines.
Even after you do the time for a drug crime, you may still face ongoing probation. During a period of probation, you will face significant limitations on your daily activities, including who you can associate with, where you can go, and even what activities you can enjoy. You may need to complete community service hours or check in regularly with a probation officer. In many cases, your probation can prevent you from moving forward with your career, including restricting your movement between states or requiring you to stay in a set geographic area.