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Drug Offenses

Each state and the federal government have laws against the unlawful use, manufacture and distribution of drugs. The purpose of these laws is to reduce the unlawful consumption of drugs, reduce drug-related crimes and severely punish repeat offenders and major drug dealers.

Drug Schedules
Federal drug statutes establish schedules of controlled substances, defining and classifying illegal drugs. The Attorney General has the authority to delete, add, or re-schedule substances according to certain criteria. State schedules refer to, or are based upon, federal schedules. Drugs included on these schedules are referred to as "Controlled Dangerous Substances" (CDSs).

The seriousness of and ultimate punishment for drug crimes generally depends upon:

the quantity of the drug
its classification under the schedules
the purpose of its possession

Producing, manufacturing, and selling illegal drugs are the most serious drug crimes. For example, a person "dealing" (selling) five or more ounces of heroin or cocaine may be imprisoned for more than 10 years. Possession of drugs with the intent to distribute is also a serious crime. The intent to distribute may be inferred from the quantity of the drug, without any evidence of actual distribution.

In most states, possession of drugs for personal use is a serious crime. But in some states, possession of drugs for personal use is punished less severely than distribution crimes. For example, in some states, possession of a small amount of marijuana (less than 50 grams) is decriminalized or treated as a disorderly person's offense. A person convicted of a disorderly person's offense is generally not imprisoned, but may be placed on probation or ordered to pay a fine. However, possession of a larger quantity of marijuana or other drug, even if for personal use, is treated as a serious crime.

Enhanced Punishment
Some states have enhanced penalties for drug crimes. These penalties go into effect if:

minors are used to distribute the drugs
the drugs are delivered or sold to minors
the drugs are sold or distributed on school property

Enhanced punishments vary from state to state. Forfeiture of property is also used as an additional punishment to deter drug crimes. For example, if your house is used to make and distribute drugs, the government may be able to seize your house.

Professional Drug Dealers
Special laws cover professional drug dealers. A "drug kingpin," or a person organizing, financing, or managing a business to manufacture, transport, or sell drugs commits a serious crime. Special sentences are reserved for professional drug dealers. The federal government has the death penalty for drug kingpins; some states impose 25 years imprisonment without parole for professional drug dealers.

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is considered a serious crime in every state. Drinking alcohol or taking drugs may affect your ability to operate cars, boats or industrial equipment in a safe manner. It is against the law in every state to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs if you cannot safely operate the vehicle. DWI and Driving Under the Influence (DUI) refer to the same crime.

n. 1) any article, object, asset or property which one owns, occupies, holds or has under control. 2) the act of owning, occupying, holding or having under control an article, object, asset or property. "Constructive possession" involves property which is not immediately held, but which one has the right to hold and the means to get (such as a key to a storeroom or safe deposit box). "Criminal possession" is the holding of property which it is illegal to possess such as controlled narcotics, stolen goods or liquor by a juvenile. The old adage "possession is nine-tenths of the law" is a rule of force and not of law, since ownership requires the right to possess as well as actual or constructive possession.

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The State Bar does not certify any lawyer as a specialist or expert. This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.

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