Federal Drug Crimes Explained by a Las Vegas Trafficking Lawyer
Both the Nevada state government and the federal government of the United States prohibit the possession, distribution, sale, manufacture, and trafficking of certain controlled substances. A defendant who violates the law in any manner related to drugs or narcotics can sometimes be charged by a U.S. Attorney and can face federal penalties. Federal prosecutors are aggressive in going after alleged drug offenders and the penalties for a federal versus a state offense can be much more serious.
Some Nevada drug crimes lawyers provide assistance only to clients facing state criminal charges. LV Criminal Defense, however, is a full-service criminal defense firm with experience handling federal cases. Our firm works hard to advocate for and protect the rights of clients facing very serious charges for federal drug offenses.
If you are being investigated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), if a U.S. attorney has sought an indictment against you, or if you have been arrested, contact LV Criminal Defense as soon as possible for assistance in responding to federal charges.
Federal Laws on Controlled Substances
The federal government has established a list of substances and types of narcotics that are considered “controlled” substances. There are different “schedules” of controlled substances depending upon how dangerous the narcotic is considered to be; the potential for addiction; and whether there is any medicinal purpose for the narcotic. The schedules classifying controlled substances are found in 21 U.S. Code Part B Section 812.
Even as states throughout the country have legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational use, it remains a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal criminal code. Other schedule I substances include peyote, mescaline, methamphetamine, and heroin.
Schedule II substances include most opium substances, while schedule III controlled substances include barbituric acid derivatives. Schedule IV controlled substances include Barbital and Paraldehyde, and Schedule V controlled substances include small amounts of codeine, opium, and other prescription narcotics.
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21 U.S. Code Part D outlines prohibited acts with substances that have been classified under any schedule of controlled substance. Within this list of forbidden actions, Code Section 841 prohibits manufacturing, distributing, or possessing controlled substances. It also prohibits possession with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled substances as well as the act of creating, dispensing, or possessing, counterfeit substances. The volume of narcotics a person possesses can be sufficient to suggest intent to distribute, manufacture, or dispense even without specific proof any of those behaviors actually occurred.
Other prohibited acts relate to the behaviors of those with authority to prescribe or distribute controlled substances.
Penalties for Federal Drug Crimes
Penalties for federal drug crimes vary based on the type and amount of substances involved in the alleged crime. Most federal drug crimes have mandatory minimum prison terms. For example, having just over 1 kg of heroin or just over 5 kg of cocaine can lead to 10 years imprisonment for a first conviction. Less than 1 kg of heroin still leads to a mandatory minimum of five years imprisonment for a first offense, so even small amounts of substances that are considered “dangerous” can result in a lengthy prison term.
Human Rights Watch warns that individuals with low-level involvement in the drug trade often face aggressive prosecution, and are charged with serious offenses that carry long mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment. The drug laws on the federal level are focused on the volume of narcotics a person has in his possession, rather than what the individual is actually doing with the controlled substances or what the individual’s role within the drug trade is.
Defendants facing the threat of years in prison may feel they have no choice but to plead guilty. This is why 97 percent of people facing federal charges accept a guilty plea and take a deal. Do not let a prosecutor coerce you into accepting a guilty plea and giving up your right to fight the serious charges you face. The average sentence for a person charged with a federal drug crime who pleads guilty is five years and four months. With help from an experienced federal drug crimes attorney, you may be able to get a better deal or may be able to fight the charges against you and get a not guilty verdict with no prison time at all.
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Defending Yourself Against Federal Drug Crimes Charges
There are a variety of ways to respond to charges when you have been accused of a federal drug crime. Options can include:
- Petitioning the court to drop the charges. If the U.S. attorney does not have sufficient evidence to suggest there is reasonable cause to believe you violated drug laws, the case should not move forward. It may be possible for your attorney to have evidence thrown out (suppressed) if your Fourth Amendment rights were violated during a search. This could lead to the charges being dismissed.
- Negotiating a plea agreement. It is possible to get a reduced sentence if the prosecutor is willing to recommend leniency or to charge you with a less serious crime. An attorney can provide assistance negotiating on your behalf with a prosecutor to try to get the best deal possible.
- Negotiating an immunity deal. If you have information on others in the drug trade, federal prosecutors may be willing to make a deal where you provide evidence in exchange for immunity.
- Fighting conviction. You can plead not guilty and try to introduce enough doubt into the prosecutor’s case that the jury finds you not guilty. You don’t have to be innocent to plead not guilty. If the prosecutor is not successfully able to show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, there should be no conviction.
LV Criminal Defense is experienced with helping clients facing federal drug charges. We can carefully review all of the circumstances associated with your criminal case to assist you in deciding on the best strategic plan aimed at avoiding or reducing penalties.
How a Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer Can Help Nevada Defendants
Nicholas Wooldridge has a long track record of success in federal criminal cases. Our attorneys will provide assistance with arguing for bail, determining how to plead, negotiating with the prosecutor, making pre-trial motions, and representing you in court. Give us a call as soon as possible to learn more about the assistance we can offer to you as you face serious criminal charges.