Drug Crimes present an interesting enigma for our legal system. Illegal in both the State and Federal criminal justice systems, drug crimes have come to the forefront of national debate and are at the center of political disagreement. Complete with different policies for different crimes, various sentencing guidelines for different drugs, and focuses on arresting various types of drug infractions, government policy towards drugs is both confusing and important to understand.
Federal infractions are tried in the Federal Justice System. These charges are usually part of a large investigation by a federal agency and will be tried in a federal court. In these circumstances, your attorney will have to be admitted to federal court in order to represent you before the judge. Further, you will be subject to federal sentencing guidelines and, if convicted and sentenced to serve time in prison, will spend your sentence in a federal penitentiary.
State infractions are tried in an individual state justice system. These charges can be made by any arresting agency, but will usually be a local law enforcement division. These cases will go through a state or local attorney’s office and then referred to the state courts for trial. It is important to work with a lawyer who is qualified to practice law in your state. Judgement in your case will be made by the State Court which, if you are convicted, will sentence you according to state guidelines and mandatory minimums, if relevant. Any time served under this conviction will be served in a state correctional facility.
One way to determine which court system is pursuing a case is to determine the arresting agency. Generally, federal investigators are only involved in large-scale operations, such as drug trafficking rings, interstate cases, or international trafficking cases. This can mean investigation into drug suppliers and international cartels. If you were arrested by a federal agency, it is likely that you were at some point involved with a large-scale drug operation. If you were arrested by a state or local agency, it is possible that your arrest was part of a smaller scale investigation or the result of a complaint to a local police department. Whether on the local, state, or federal level, drug crimes are a charge to avoid and should be approached with the professional assistance of an experienced attorney.