What Are the Differences Between State and Federal Drug Crimes
In news reports of major drug crimes, you may have noticed that the offenders are sometimes arrested by federal authorities, charged with federal crimes, prosecuted in the federal court system, and sentenced to federal prison. In other cases, the offenders are arrested by state or county officers, charged with violation of a state law, prosecuted in the state’s circuit court system, and sentenced to state prison. However, these reports usually do not explain why the offenders are being charged with a federal as opposed to a state crime.
Illinois has a Controlled Substances Act that closely mirrors the federal Controlled Substances Act. But, why does the state need a law if a federal law already exists? One reason is that state authorities may wish to act more quickly than the federal government in changing drug laws. A good example of this is the recent easing of penalties for marijuana possession in many states. Some states, like Illinois, have also been leaders in creating alternative sentencing programs for drug-addicted offenders that offer the option of a supervised treatment and rehabilitation program rather than prison.
The main factor that determines whether a person is charged with a federal versus a state drug crime is the nature of the crime. Federal drug charges usually involve high-volume drug trafficking across state borders or conspiracy to distribute drugs. The less serious crime of drug possession, on the other hand, is more commonly charged at the state level. The types of drug busts that result in federal charges generally involve kilograms of cocaine or heroin, whereas the sale of just a few grams of cocaine or heroin will more commonly result in state charges.
The penalties for federal versus state drug crimes can also vary. For example, at the federal level, a dealer caught with 280 grams of crack cocaine is subject to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years for a first-time offender or 20 years for a repeat offender. Only a person with a very limited criminal history, such as one or two prior misdemeanors, can avoid a federal mandatory minimum sentence. In contrast, at the state level, a dealer caught with that amount of crack faces a potential sentence of at least 9 years in prison, with no mandatory minimum prescribed by Illinois law.
A Will County Drug Charges Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with drug possession, manufacturing, distribution, or trafficking, call an experienced Joliet drug charges defense lawyer. Attorney Jack L. Zaremba has practiced criminal law in the Will County courts for more than a decade and will provide the aggressive defense you need. Call 815-740-4025 for a free consultation.