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Federal Drug Classifications and Criminal Charges

If you are facing drug crimes charges of any kind, it is essential to seek advice from an experienced Texas drug crimes defense attorney as soon as possible to begin building your defense. Yet it is also critical to learn more about the charges you are facing. The following information explains how drugs are classified differently under federal and state law, and how a federal drug classification can affect federal criminal drug charges.

Drug Schedule or Penalty Group Can Affect Charges and Penalties Under State and Federal Law

The schedule or classification of a drug, or controlled substance, can affect how a particular drug crime is charged and what the associated penalties may be upon conviction. However, the schedules of drug classifications differ from federal law to state law. Indeed, the particular classification of a drug can impact whether it is charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense in some cases. Under federal law, drugs are classified according to schedule, while under Texas law, drugs are classified according to the penalty group. The Texas penalty groups have some similarities to federal drug schedules, but there are also notable distinctions.

Federal Drug Schedules

Under federal law, drugs will be classified in one of the following categories:

  • Schedule I controlled substances, which “have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse” (such as heroin, marijuana, and ecstasy;
  • Schedule II controlled substances, which “have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence,” and while there are lawful and accepted uses of these drugs, you need to have a valid prescription in order to lawfully have them in your possession (such as Dilaudid, OxyContin, Percocet, fentanyl, morphine, and codeine);
  • Schedule III controlled substances, which “have a high potential for abuse less than substances in Schedules I or II and abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence,” and can only be lawfully possessed with a prescription (such as Tylenol with Codeine or buprenorphine);
  • Schedule IV controlled substances, which “have a low potential for abuse relative to substances in Schedule III,” and can only be possessed lawfully with a valid prescription (such as Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, or Ativan); and
  • Schedule V controlled substances, which “have a low potential for abuse relative to substances listed in Schedule IV and consist primarily of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics,” and can be lawfully possessed only with a prescription (such as Robitussin AC or other medications containing codeine).

How Drug Schedules Can Affect Charges

The schedule classification for a drug, along with the amount of the controlled substance in question, can determine whether a person will face charges for possession, distributing, manufacturing, or “trafficking” under federal law. While federal law does not expressly have a drug trafficking offense, higher amounts of controlled substances, depending upon the schedule of the drug, can affect the potential penalties for a possession or trafficking conviction, as well as additional charges a person might face, such as conspiracy charges.

Contact a Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer in Texas

If you are facing drug crimes charges under state or federal law, our Texas drug crimes defense attorneys can assist you. Contact The Law Offices of Tan Nelson & Associates for more information.