The short answer to whether or not drug charges can be federal crimes is yes, drug crimes can be federal crimes that are prosecuted in federal courts. The federal justice department has jurisdiction over drug crimes that take place anywhere in the United States.
Our federal crimes attorneys know that certain circumstances make drug crimes more likely to be prosecuted in federal courts than in state courts.
Circumstances Leading To Federal Drug Crimes Charges
Drug charges that are prosecuted in federal courts are often related to large drug operations and those operations frequently take place across several or more states. When offenders are arrested by federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Federal Bureau of Investigation, they will likely be prosecuted in federal court.
When federal agencies and local law enforcement agencies work together on drug crimes, they will often agree that the crimes should be prosecuted in federal court, especially when the punishment is likely to be more severe in federal court.
Drug crimes can be related to the possession, manufacturing, distribution, and trafficking of drugs. Simple possession cases are typically prosecuted at the state level while the manufacturing, distribution, and trafficking of drugs are often prosecuted at the federal level.
State Crimes Versus Federal Crimes
When people are charged with drug crimes, they generally hope to be prosecuted in the appropriate state court rather than in federal court. This is because federal sentencing guidelines are usually harsher than state court guidelines.
Federal courts are known to have severe mandatory minimum punishments and sentencing enhancements that can make prison sentences significantly longer than they would be if the crime were prosecuted in a state court.
Can Drug Charges Be Prosecuted In Both State And Federal Courts?
People are often under the impression that because of double jeopardy, they can only be prosecuted once for the same crime, but that is not always the case when it comes to state and federal prosecutions.
The legal principle that is known as ‘dual sovereignty‘ permits state governments and the federal government to prosecute state crimes and federal crimes in their respective courts, even if it means trying the same person twice for the same crime.
It is not typical that the same charges are brought in both state and federal courts, but it does happen sometimes. This principle was recently challenged in the United States Supreme Court as a violation of double jeopardy for prosecuting the same person in federal court after he had already been prosecuted in state court, but the justices voted to uphold the longstanding principle in a 7-2 ruling.
Drug Charges Defenses
Whether they are state or federal charges, drug charges do not automatically mean that defendants will wind up with criminal convictions. This is especially true when defendants have a solid defense and a skilled attorney advocating on their behalf.
Common defenses in these cases include the following:
- The drugs did not belong to the defendant
- The defendant did not intend to distribute the drugs
- The law enforcement search that led to the discovery of the drugs was illegal
- The vehicle stop that led to the discovery of the drugs was illegal
- The drugs were planted on the defendant by another person or an officer
Negotiating With Prosecutors In Drug Crimes Cases
Prosecutors often file as many charges as possible against defendants, even those that they may not be able to prove in a trial, to scare defendants into pleading to lesser crimes. However, pleading guilty to lesser crimes is not always in a defendant’s best interest.
Experienced drug crime defense attorneys will conduct a thorough investigation of the case facts, evidence, and the method by which that evidence was obtained. They will then be in a position to argue for lesser charges or a dismissal of charges, or they may take the case to trial if it is in the defendant’s best interest.
Contact A Federal Crimes Attorney
Whether it is a federal or state matter, if you have been charged with drug crimes, you need a skilled attorney to represent your best interests. The criminal defense attorneys at Vinas & Graham are experts in both state and federal crimes cases and they will fight to see that you secure the best possible outcome in your case.
If you have been charged or believe you are being investigated for drug crimes, contact our office as soon as possible by submitting this online form or calling 713-229-9992.
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