Most crimes either fall under the jurisdiction of the state or federal government, but not both. There are a few exceptions, though. Drug crimes are one example.
State prosecutors generally prosecute drug crimes such as possession, sales or distribution. Federal prosecutors typically take on large-scale cases such as manufacturing or trafficking.
Other factors, such as where the alleged offense occurred, dictate what level of government prosecutes a drug offense. You may want to learn more about the differences between these two court systems if you’re facing drug charges. That information may aid you in understanding how your case unfolds.
Do the federal and state court systems view drug crimes similarly?
The possession of controlled substances such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine is illegal under both Colorado and federal laws. An individual’s possession of certain amounts of marijuana for medicinal or recreational use is permitted under Colorado law. It’s always illegal under federal law.
Colorado law classifies the possession of drug paraphernalia as a petty offense. Federal prosecutors generally do not pursue a defendant on minor charges such as these.
The type and amount of the drug involved determine what types of drug charges a defendant may face. Federal authorities have a list of schedules of drugs that are most likely to be abused. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is more likely to aggressively prosecute defendants charged with crimes involving the more addictive drugs.
How do penalties vary for state versus federal drug offenses?
Sentences within the state system can be just as long as federal ones. Someone convicted of drug distribution charges may receive anywhere between three years and a life imprisonment sentence. Trafficking defendants may receive between five years and a life prison sentence. Federal government fines can be as high as $250,000.
The importance of a strong defense in your case
Law enforcement agencies tend to invest significant resources in pursuing drug defendants in the interest of deterring other crimes and ensuring the public’s safety. You’ll need to put up a strong defense if you’re facing drug charges. An experienced attorney can help you do that.