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How do Federal Drug Crimes Differ from State Charges?

Most of the drug-related offenses that are charged in state court tend to be relatively minor. Federal crimes, on the other hand, almost always come with jail time, lengthy prison sentences, and hefty fines. Drug trafficking prosecutions are particularly common in Texas. In fact, in 2010, two of the top five federal districts for drug trafficking prosecutions in the U.S. were located in Texas. Federal drug allegations require a different approach when it comes to formulating a strong defense, so if you were recently accused of drug trafficking, or another federal drug crime, it is important to speak with an experienced Houston drug charges lawyer for advice. 

marijuana leaf and handcuff

The Amount of Drugs Seized

Unlike state drug possession charges, federal drug crime allegations almost always involve substantial amounts of drugs. In fact, it is the amount of drugs that is primarily used as evidence of drug trafficking, as prosecutors are not required to prove that a defendant actually intended to sell the drugs in order to obtain a conviction. Instead, federal prosecutors rely on the amount of drugs allegedly found in a person’s possession, to establish that he or she is guilty of drug trafficking. 

The Severity of the Penalties

The penalties for federal drug crime convictions are severe. Drug trafficking, for instance, which involves allegations of selling, transporting, or importing controlled substances, are charged as felonies. In the majority of cases in which a person is convicted of federal drug trafficking or a similar crime, he or she will almost always face prison time. In fact, many federal drug crimes have mandatory minimum sentences, which means that judges have limited discretion when deciding on the length of a person’s sentence. A defendant can also expect to face more serious penalties if he or she has a prior criminal record, is accused of harming another person, or allegedly used a weapon during the commission of the offense. 

The Investigation

While law enforcement officers generally have broad authority to investigate crimes. They are, however, usually limited to investigating offenses that occurred within their state’s boundaries. Federal investigators do not have such limitations, are extremely well-funded, and so can engage in more in-depth and far-reaching investigations. 

The Court System

Defendants who are charged with a drug crime under state law can expect their cases to be governed by state law and state criminal procedures. Any convictions or dismissals will also be handled in state court. Federal charges, however, are prosecuted specifically under federal law and are also decided in a federal court, by a federal judge. 

Call Today for Help with Your Case

Criminal charges should always be taken seriously. Federal drug charges, however, tend to come with the most severe consequences, making it especially important for those who are being accused of a federal crime, to reach out to a lawyer for advice. To learn more about how an experienced Houston drug charges lawyer could help you, please call The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 280-0100 today.