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I Was Arrested for Drugs – Is This a State or Federal Crime?

Criminal Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

I Was Arrested for Drugs – Is This a State or Federal Crime?

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Texas law enforcement spends a great deal of their resources and time making drug-related arrests. The court system regularly issues severe legal punishments for drug convictions. These penalties can include jail or prison time, fines, probation, community service and a permanent criminal record.

In some drug cases, it may be possible for a defendant to face federal charges rather than state charges. The application of state or federal law largely depends on the facts of an individual case.

State Law vs. Federal Law in Drug Cases

In many Texas drug cases, the court will use state law to determine how the case will be handled. This means that, if a conviction is reached, the punishments will be based on the recommendations of Texas law.

However, some cases will be prosecuted according to federal law. The determining factors that will indicate if a Texas drug offense is a federal or state crime include:

  • The type of drugs involved in the case
  • The amount of drugs involved in the case
  • The actions of the defendant
  • The location of the defendant during commission of the offense

This means that a case can be prosecuted as a state or federal crime based on the facts of the case. For example, less serious drug crimes that do not include violence and involve small amounts of drugs are typically treated as state crimes. On the other hand, Texas drug cases that involve large amounts of hard drugs, especially drug trafficking and distribution cases may be tried as federal offenses.

Drug Offense Scenarios

Imagine the following scenario:

John is driving down the street when he is pulled over by a police officer for failure to use a turn signal. The officer approaches John’s car and detects the odor of marijuana. He uses this odor as probable cause to initiate a search and John consents to the search. The officer finds a bag containing one ounce of marijuana. John is arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

Imagine a similar scenario with a different outcome:

John is pulled over for failure to use a signal. The officer smells marijuana and searches the car. He finds a small amount of marijuana but when he looks in the trunk he finds several ounces of methamphetamine, a scale, dozens of plastic baggies and several rolls of cash. John may be arrested on felony possession charges but he may eventually face federal drug distribution and conspiracy charges.

The main point here is that state drug charges are applied in the majority of drug cases. When a drug case involves large-scale incidents of drug distribution, manufacturing, racketeering and money laundering, federal charges may apply in addition to state charges.

Texas State Drug Crimes

In Texas, drug offenses are listed in the Health and Safety Code rather than the penal code. In Section 481.112 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, drug offenses are listed according to type and severity. Some of these offenses include:

  • Manufacture or Delivery of Heroin, Opium or Cocaine
  • Manufacture or Delivery of Controlled Substance Causing Death or Serious Bodily Injury
  • Over-The-Counter Sales of Ephedrine, Pseudoephedrine, and Norpseudoephedrine

Federal Drug Crimes

According to Section 21 of the United States Code, there are many different types of drug crimes. A few of them include:

  • Manufacture, Distribution, Possession of a Controlled Substance, (Coke, Crack, Heroin, Designer Drugs, Marijuana, etc.)
  • Distribution to Persons Under Age Twenty-One
  • Smuggling Methamphetamine into U.S.

In many cases, federal laws apply when a large amount of drugs are involved in the case. For example, federal charges and state charges can both be applied if a person if found to be in possession of one kilogram of a substance or mixture that contains heroin. If a person is found with a gram of heroin or less, only state law will usually apply.

Legal Defenses

Whether it’s a state case or a federal case, a strong legal defense is critically important. The most crucial component of a good legal defense is a defense attorney. Hiring a defense attorney should be the first step after a person is charged with a drug crime.

If you’ve been arrested for drugs in Houston or surrounding areas, contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros. We can help protect your rights and preserve your freedom. Call 832-752-5972 or email today for a free, confidential consultation.

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