Chicago Federal Drug Lawyer
When we hear about people being charged with crimes, we usually assume these are local matters. We think that because the Illinois State Police or the defendant’s hometown police officers arrested them that they will go to court in the county where they live or where they were arrested. This is mostly true when someone is charged with a crime that is against Illinois law. But there are two levels of criminal charges in the U.S. – state and federal. It is possible that if you are arrested for a drug crime anywhere in the country, you could be charged with a federal offense. In this case, you will be required to appear in a federal court – not the state’s courthouse. Federal drug crimes often come with harsher minimum prison sentences and no chance for parole, making it crucial you have a strong defense.
If you are facing a federal drug offense, contact the Illinois drug crimes defense attorneys of O’Meara Law at 312-909-0706.
The Difference Between State and Federal Drug Crimes
The U.S. government has laws just like every state has its own laws. When you commit a crime, it may not only violate a state statute, but it could also violate a U.S. federal law. In relation to drug crimes, almost all state drug offenses are also against federal law.
But what factors lead to someone being charged with a federal offense?
- Arrest by a federal agency: If a federal law enforcement agency like the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), investigates a person for a drug-related crime and makes the arrest, that person is almost always charged with a federal offense. Many times, state agencies request federal help with an investigation because they need more resources and manpower. That’s when it becomes a greater likelihood of a federal arrest and charge.
- Arrest based on an informant: If someone informs on you and that’s why you are arrested for a drug crime, you will end up in the federal criminal court system. Usually, this is because the informant is already part of a federal investigation.
- Interstate commerce: If the drug activity crossed state lines, the offense is more likely to be a federal charge than an offense in one of the relevant states.
- Prosecutor’s decision: The state and federal prosecutors can decide how to charge someone. You are more likely to be charged with a federal crime if the prosecutors want to be seen as “tough on crime” because federal punishments are much harsher.
- A large criminal enterprise: If the drug offense is believed to be related to a larger operation, the person will likely be charged with a federal offense.
Federal Drug Crimes
Types of federal drug crimes are similar to state drug crimes. They include:
- Manufacturing: Anyone found to be making drugs, especially in large quantities, may be charged with a federal crime.
- Possession: If someone is found to possess any amount of illegal substances or a controlled medication without a prescription, they can be charged with a federal crime. However, it’s most likely to be a federal offense if it’s a large quantity or if the possession was accompanied with the intent to distribute the drug.
- Trafficking: Anyone who manufactures or possesses drugs with the intent to distribute or sell them can be charged with a federal crime. Federal drug trafficking offenses for Schedule I, II, III, IV, and V drugs are serious and come with severe mandatory minimum prison sentences.
- Selling to children or in a school zone: Anyone found to possess or distribute illegal drugs in a school zone or to people under the age of 21 face a federal offense for selling drugs in protected areas.
- Conspiracy: If you are believed to be part of the manufacturing, importation, promotion, possession, or distribution of narcotics, the federal government may seek to prove you are part of a conspiracy. The federal prosecutor has to prove that there was an agreement between two or more people to violate a drug law, each person knew the agreement, and you took at least one step to further the conspiracy.
Federal Sentencing for Drug Crimes
A defendant facing a federal drug crime needs an experienced and aggressive Chicago federal drug lawyer because they could be sentenced to decades in prison without parole for what seems like a minor offense. Because of mandatory minimum sentences, the statutory punishment for many drug crimes is harsh. For instance, if you have at least 1 kilogram of heroin, 5 kilograms of cocaine, or 280 grams of crack, you face 10 years in prison for your first offense. A second offense can lead to 20 years in prison and a third offense could mean imprisonment for life. If anyone was hurt in relation to your drug offense, the punishments are even steeper.
Contact a Chicago Federal Drug Lawyer for Help
Facing a federal drug charge can be terrifying. One mistake can result in spending a decade or more of your life behind bars, away from your family and friends. But being charged with a crime does not automatically make you guilty. You have a right to your day in court and to prove your innocence. By working with an attorney who is experienced in handling federal drug crime cases, you have the ability to build the strongest defense possible under the law.
Call O’Meara Law at 312-909-0706 to learn about your legal options. Michael O’Meara has two decades of experience as both a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney. He understands how the prosecution works and can build a responsive and powerful defense.