Federal Lawyers Serving All of Maine Including Bangor, Portland, Augusta, Biddeford and Saco
The US has two sets of criminal law for which its citizens must abide: state law and federal law. As a result of the differences between state and federal laws, there are major sentencing differences for state crimes and federal crimes. A person could actually violate the criminal law of the state and the US Criminal Code.
In some areas, state and federal laws overlap, and thus, you could face both state charges and federal charges for the same conduct. Drug distribution, or drug trafficking, is one of these areas. As detailed in this blog post, you can face state charges in Maine for drug trafficking. Here, we'll go over federal drug distribution charges.
Like the state of Maine, the federal government categorizes regulated drugs, which it calls “controlled substances,” into a list of “Schedules.” While Maine's drug laws have four Schedules, federal drug laws have five:
Schedule I is for drugs that have a high potential for abuse, and no currently accepted medical use in the U.S. These include many types of opiates and their derivatives, as well as several hallucinogens. Included in Schedule I drugs are heroin, codeine, morphine, and marijuana.
Schedule II is composed of drugs that also have a high potential for abuse, which can lead to severe psychological or physical dependence on the drug. However, there are accepted uses of the drug for medical treatment. Schedule II includes many types of opiates, and methamphetamine.
Schedule III drugs have a moderate potential for abuse, which can lead to high psychological dependence, or moderate physical dependence, on the drug, but which also have accepted medical value. Here, you'll find stimulants, depressants, anabolic steroids, and narcotics.
Schedule IV lists drugs that have a low abuse potential, and abuse only leads to a limited dependence on the drug. These drugs also currently have a medically accepted use in the U.S. This includes drugs such as barbital, ethinamate, and paraldehyde.
Finally, Schedule V drugs have a very low potential for abuse, have a medically-sound use in the U.S., and abuse only leads to a limited dependence on the drug. This includes low amounts of several types of drugs, such as codeine or opium.
For a full listing of the drugs included in the federal drug Schedules, see this page.
Distribution, or Trafficking, of Controlled Substances
Federal law makes it a crime to “knowingly or intentionally manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance.”
Just like with federal drug possession laws, to get convicted on a federal drug distribution charge, the prosecutor needs to show that you “knowingly or intentionally” did the acts necessary for the crime. This is the law's “culpable state of mind” requirement, and needs to be proven to a jury by the prosecutor beyond a reasonable doubt in order for you to get convicted of the crime. This is just one of the places where a solid criminal defense attorney can help.
In addition to showing that you had the “culpable state of mind” for the crime of federal drug distribution, the prosecutor also has to show that you actually performed the acts necessary for fulfillment of the crime. These are “manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing controlled substances,” which include the making and moving of drugs, and the act of transferring them to someone else.
However, there's another way for federal drug distribution laws to get filed against you. Even if you're not arrested while “manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing controlled substances,” you can still face drug distribution charges for possessing large amounts of certain drugs. If you have enough of a drug, law enforcement will presume that you were intending to distribute it, simply because there's too much for only you to use. In this way, simply possessing too much of a drug can turn a federal drug possession charge into a federal drug distribution charge.
Penalties for Drug Distribution
There are lots of variables that go into the possible penalties for drug distribution. One of the biggest variables, when it comes to federal charges for drug distribution, is the type of the drug involved, and the amount. However, your criminal background will also be a big factor in the potential penalty, as will the circumstances surrounding the crime, such as whether it involved a death or a serious injury, or whether a deadly weapon was used.
The base penalties, however, are set out by the Drug Enforcement Administration, here.
Additionally, federal drug distribution charges are subject to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. These Guidelines impose minimum and maximum penalties for those convicted of a federal drug distribution crime. However, because of all the different controlled substances there are, and because possessing or distributing different amounts results in different penalties, there's still a huge range of criminal sanctions that you could face, if you're convicted for drug distribution. For more details on the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, you can read this blog post.
Despite the recent movement away from overly-harsh penalties for drug offenders, the federal government still considers drug crimes a high-level offense. While it's never surprising for the federal government to be behind the times, it's unfortunate how much it impacts people who have to deal with this antiquated view of the world.
Regardless of how behind-the-times the federal government is, it doesn't help someone who's been charged with a federal drug distribution crime. Their concern is with the criminal charge that's on their table, and doing everything they can to avoid a conviction that can severely impact their future and freedom.
That's where criminal defense attorneys like William T. Bly come in. With years defending people against criminal drug distribution charges, Mr. Bly has built a reputation as one of the best defense attorneys in the southern Maine area. Tap into his wealth of knowledge and experience by calling his law office at (207) 571-8146. When you're facing serious criminal charges from the federal government, having Mr. Bly on your side can be the difference between a conviction, and an acquittal.