Are All Drug Crimes Federal Offenses?

Any drug crime you are convicted of is a serious manner and can result in harsh fines, prison sentences, and a lifelong criminal record. However, there are differences in drug crimes, especially sentencing differences at the state and federal level. Keep reading to learn more about drug crimes and the consequences of being convicted. 

What is a Drug Crime? 

A drug crime, or drug offense, is a criminal offense related to controlled substances. A drug offense may involve possession, manufacture, distribution, trafficking, or related activity of a controlled substance. Drug crimes at both the state and federal level result in severe consequences, however federal drug crimes generally produce harsher penalties. 

What is Considered a State Drug Offense in New Jersey? 

Drug crime offenses at the state level are investigated by state authorities and do not involve the transportation of drugs over the state line. There are a number of drug offenses that someone can be charged with in New Jersey. These include: 

Drug Possession: Having a controlled and dangerous substance (CDS) on one’s person or having “constructive” possession which means it can be proven that one owned and had control over the drugs. 

Intent to Distribute: Having possession of CDS and successfully selling it or attempting to sell it to another person. 

Selling Drugs in a School Zone: If the sale, or intended sale, takes place within 1000 feet of a property used for school purposes, there will be harsher penalties than if the sale did not occur near a school. 

While most drug offenses are handled at the state level, they can quickly become federal offenses. 

New Jersey State Drug Crime Sentencing

The State of New Jersey bases penalties for state drug crimes on the type and quantity of drug in the offense. In New Jersey, drug types are classified according to the “controlled dangerous substances” or CDS, system. This system is the same as the federal classification and scheduling system for illicit and illegal drugs. Many offenses including schedule I and schedule II drugs carry the harshest penalties with many of these offenses turning into federal drug crimes. 

A drug trafficking offense in New Jersey means that someone tried to profit from the sale, manufacture or distribution of a schedule I or II drug and worked with at least two others to do this. A drug trafficking conviction in New Jersey will trigger a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment, with a minimum of 25 years served before parole is an option. 

Even a first-time drug offense in New Jersey will result in serious consequences. A first time conviction for drug possession (excluding marijuana) can mean 3 to 5 years in prison and up to $35K in fines. 

What is Considered a Federal Drug Offense? 

There aren’t many differences in whether drug offenses are charged at the state or federal level, however there are a few key elements that do make a distinction of whether a state or federal crime will be assessed, these include: 

  • The amount of the controlled substance in question
  • The person’s intent to sell
  • If the drugs were trafficked across state borders

Also, if a person is arrested by federal officers, the likelihood of being charged with a federal drug offense increases. Even if the offense seems “minor”, like smoking marijuana in a national park. If federal officers make the arrest, it is considered a federal crime. 

Federal Drug Crime Sentencing 

Many drug offenses have mandatory minimum sentences due to the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. Congress then extended the reach of mandatory minimum penalties in 1988 to drug trafficking conspiracies. A person convicted of a federal drug crime will almost certainly face prison time if convicted. 

Many first-time federal drug offense penalties are tied to the quantity and type of drugs in the offense. A five-year prison term is the starting point for a first-time federal drug offense, no matter the type or quantity of drug. This penalty can swiftly increase to 40 years if intent to distribute can be proven, the drugs crossed state lines, or the drug present in the offense is considered a schedule I drug by the DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Agency). 

A five-year mandatory minimum sentence up to a 40-year maximum sentence is the punishment for first time drug crimes. Some examples of types of drugs and quantities that result in a five-year mandatory sentence include:

  • Heroin 100 grams (3.5 ounces)
  • Crack     28 grams (.98 ounce) 
  • Powdered Cocaine 500 grams
  • Marijuana 100 kilograms
  • Methamphetamine (pure) 5 grams
  • Meth (mixture) 50 grams 

These penalties can be made even harsher due to the fines associated with them. Again, depending on the quantity and type of drug, fines can range from a couple of hundred dollars up to millions of dollars. 

Drug crimes in New Jersey are not taken lightly by authorities. Many of these infractions turn into federal drug crimes very quickly with mandatory sentences attached. It is imperative that if you or someone you know is accused of a drug crime in New Jersey, retaining the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential. 

The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot 

The team at the Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot has the necessary experience to help you if you’ve been accused of a state or federal drug crime. With over four decades of providing sound defenses for our clients, you can rely on us to do our best for you. 

Reach out to the Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot if you or someone you know has been accused of a state or federal drug crime. We can help!