State vs. Federal Laws
Allegations of illegal use of drugs are typically a state matter. The incident is investigated by a local police department. After an arrest, the charges are referred to the local district attorney and the case is tried in the local courthouse.
However, allegations of illegal drug use are also a crime under federal law. 21 U.S.C. §841 states that it is a federal crime for any person to possess an illegal drug with the intent to sell it. It does not matter whether that drug has been legalized in a state, as is the case with marijuana in many places – if the FBI or DEA is investigating the crime, they can refer the case to a United States Attorney for prosecution.
The severity of the allegation depends upon the types and amounts of drugs found in a person’s possession. In many cases, a person will face mandatory minimum sentences. For example, if a person has over 100 grams of heroin, the law requires that they receive at least five years in a federal prison making it important those accused consult with an Albany federal drug lawyer.
The simplest form of drug possession – being found with any amount of a drug – is illegal under 21 U.S.C. §844. Here a person may face a sentence of up to one year in prison, no matter the type or amount of drug they possess.
Anyone facing federal drug charges have more than their loss of freedom to be concerned with. U.S. laws allow the court to confiscate personal property and inflict heavy financial penalties upon guilty parties.
Under 21 U.S.C. 853, the government has the authority to seize any personal property connected to the drug activity. This commonly includes:
The court can apply this additional penalty of seizing property to anyone who is convicted of a crime where a term in jail exceeding one year is available.
The court also has the power to order an individual to pay heavy fines. 21 U.S.C. §844a grants courts the power to inflict civil penalties of up to $10,000 for any violation of the drug code. In addition, a person’s financial situation is not considered when the court makes this decision. Even more, the penalty can be applied multiple times if a person is found guilty on multiple counts.