Federal Narcotics Charges in New York
Approximately one third of all federal criminal prosecutions are for drug offenses, whether it be the sale, distribution, importation, manufacture or possession of narcotics. The penalties for this crime can be devastating, with lengthy mandatory minimum prison terms frequently imposed as a result of a conviction. This does not just include hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin, but also prescription drugs, K2/Spice and even marijuana.
If you are currently facing federal narcotics charges in New York, you should strongly consider retaining a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Federal law allows for significant harsh punishments upon conviction for drug-related offenses than most state-level laws do, so timely assistance from legal counsel may be crucial to keeping you out of prison.
What is the Difference Between Federal and State Narcotics Charges?
Most drug-related criminal offenses are prosecuted at the state level since they only occur within the boundaries of a single state. For example, any charge related to possession of a drug for personal use or an individual sale of small quantities of a controlled substance would generally result in state-level rather than federal charges.
However, an allegation that someone transporting drugs across state lines for any purpose may result in federal narcotics charges. Accusations of trafficking large quantities of drugs for resale are often prosecuted especially harshly under federal law.
Is Marijuana Criminalized Under Federal Law?
It is important to remember that while many states have decriminalized or legalized the possession of marijuana for medicinal and/or personal use, federal law still classifies marijuana as a Class I controlled substance. Accordingly, anyone who transports even a small amount of marijuana across state lines may be subject to federal charges. In some cases, marijuana possession may result in federal narcotics charges even if the defendant never crossed state lines. For instance, this scenario may occur if someone was pulled over on an interstate highway that traversed multiple states and found with the drugs in their possession.
Charges and Potential Punishments Under Federal Law
Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(a), unless otherwise authorized by statute, it is unlawful for anyone to either knowingly or intentionally manufacture, distribute, dispense or possess with intent to do the same, any controlled or counterfeit substance. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b) then sets forth the applicable penalties for this crime, which are largely dependent on the weight and drug type at issue.
For example, in a case involving 280 grams of cocaine base, one kilogram of heroin, five kilograms of cocaine or 1000 kilograms of marijuana, a defendant is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment upon conviction. If the use of the substance at issue resulted in death or serious bodily injury, or if the defendant committed the crime after previously committing another felony drug offense, the mandatory minimum sentence becomes 20 years imprisonment. Worse still, if both serious bodily injury or death occurred as a result of this drug and the defendant had previously been convicted of a felony drug offense, the mandatory minimum sentence becomes life imprisonment.
Further, a defendant in a case involving another Schedule I or II controlled substance [21 U.S.C. § 812] and with no other aggravating factors may be punished by up to 20 years imprisonment; and a defendant in a case involving less than 50 kilograms of marijuana may be punished by up to five years imprisonment, which is then increased to 10 years imprisonment should that defendant have previously been convicted of a felony drug crime. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C)-(D). Finally, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 846, any individual who attempts or conspires to commit any of the any of these drug offenses shall be punished by these same, stiff penalties.
Contesting Federal Controlled Substance Allegations
Many successful defense strategies in New York federal narcotics cases involve challenging the prosecution’s case on procedural grounds. For example, a skilled lawyer may be able to show that incriminating evidence against a defendant was acquired through illegitimate means such as entrapment or was based on false or misleading testimony.
In other circumstances, the best course of action may be working to mitigate potential penalties by showing that the circumstances under which the defendant was arrested do not warrant prosecution to the degree federal authorities are pursuing. Legal counsel could discuss available options based on an individual defendant’s circumstances during a private consultation.
Contact a New York Attorney for Help Fighting Federal Narcotics Charges
Having a top criminal defense attorney help you fight any federal narcotics charges could mean the difference between significant jail time and alternative sentencing. As such, if you have been accused of a drug offense, you should contact an attorney who could help you mitigate the potential penalties. If an acquittal is not possible, we could fight in your corner and make sure that the lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences are not applied to your case. Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman today for a free consultation.