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NYC Federal Drug Crimes Lawyers

Defendants can be charged with state or federal drug crimes. There is a great deal of crossover between the two categories, and a number of factors can determine who will be charged by state or federal prosecutors.

Does it matter if a defendant’s drug case becomes federal?

It can matter a great deal. While drug penalties vary from state to state, they are almost always more lenient than federal penalties. For instance, a first-time drug trafficking offender could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison under federal law, while a first-time offender could face 20 years in prison under New York law. In that example, the difference between state and federal charges adds up to 20 years of a defendant’s life.

How does a drug defendant end up in federal court?

As mentioned above, state and federal drug laws overlap, and either entity can charge a defendant. However, if a drug defendant ends up in federal court, one of the following scenarios has likely occurred:

1. A federal informant named the defendant. Because federal penalties are so severe, many defendants will inform on people they are allegedly involved with in order to earn a more lenient sentence. When this happens, a defendant can be slapped with federal charges.

2. A defendant is arrested by a federal agent or on federal property. Defendants taken into custody by members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) are often charged in federal court. Likewise, if someone is arrested on federal property, such as a national park, he or she could end up facing federal charges.

3. A defendant is caught up in a federal drug sting. When state or local law enforcement officers encounter a particularly large or sophisticated drug ring, they will often ask federal agencies to assist them on the investigation. During such operations, state and federal agencies must come to an agreement on jurisdiction. If the federal government takes control, defendants will end up being charged with federal drug crimes. This is true even if a defendant played a minor role in the alleged crime.

4. A defendant is accused of transporting drugs over state lines or international borders. Whenever an alleged crime takes place in multiple states, federal courts have a strong chance of getting involved. This is also true when a drug crime crosses international borders. For example, a drug bust at one of the United States/Canada borders at Niagra Falls is likely to bypass New York authorities and land in federal court.

5. Bad luck. Unfortunately, federal drug charges can develop in many ways, and a trip to federal court can sometimes be as simple as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For example, a local law enforcement agency could lack resources to handle what should be a state investigation and decide to call in a federal agency for help, landing a defendant in federal court. In another scenario, a federal agency could usurp jurisdiction over a state case if it has reason to believe it will help move a federal case forward. In either situation, even a low-level drug defendant could end up facing federal charges.

Common Federal Drug Charges

While federal law enforcement agencies tend to focus on larger drug crimes, the scenarios above make clear that any drug crime can end up before a federal judge. This includes crimes that are more typically handled by state and local authorities, such as simple drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and small-scale drug dealing.

However, federal prosecutors spend most of their time pursuing major drug crimes, such as:

1. Manufacturing and delivery of a controlled substance. This charge is leveled against defendants suspected of having a role in the production and/or delivery of a drug. Drugs that are commonly manufactured for delivery include methamphetamine, crack cocaine and LSD.

2. Drug trafficking and distribution. If a defendant is accused of possessing large amounts of a drug, he or she can be charged with drug trafficking and distribution. This means the defendant is suspected of transporting and selling drugs. This charge can apply to major drug dealers who oversee large drug trafficking operations. However, it can also apply to a defendant who was caught in possession of a sizeable amount of personal drugs.

Getting legal help

Federal drug charges can lead to severe penalties and personal hardships for those who are convicted. Therefore, defendants facing such crimes should seek the counsel of a New York criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. An attorney could carefully evaluate the evidence and work to build a strong defense based on the circumstances of the case. The attorney’s efforts could lead to the charges being reduced or dismissed.

by Leonard on Spodek Law Group
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