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Federal Drug and Alcohol Offenses

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

March 4, 2022

Federal charges are typically reserved for the most serious or particularly heinous offenses. While drug and alcohol offenses are some of the most common, they may also be charged at the federal level in cases where national laws are broken. Let’s go over federal drug and alcohol charges.

Federal DUI

Many people are unaware that you can be charged with a federal DUI depending on the circumstances of the arrest. While most DUIs will be handled at the state level, the location of your arrest may elevate your charge to the federal level.

Federal DUIs occur when federal land or property is involved. This means getting a DUI on federal lands, like a national park or military base. You may also be charged with federal DUI if the federal property is somehow damaged during your DUI.

Are All Military Member DUIs Federal DUIs?

As previously mentioned, DUIs on a military base are federal offenses. However, this does not mean that every military member arrested for DUI will face federal charges. If their offense happened off-base, their charge will remain at the local/state level. However, military members should be especially mindful of potential penalties for their offense. Not only do they face civilian consequences like fines and incarceration, but they may also face additional military sanctions. This could include a decrease in pay, demotion, restrictions on base, or a dishonorable discharge.

Federal DUI Penalties

The penalties for a federal DUI are more severe than a standard DUI, even if the only difference in the case is where the arrest occurred.

Federal DUIs are punishable by:

  • Up to six months in a federal prison
  • Up to $5,000 in fines
  • Multiple years of probation
  • License suspension

If you are visiting a national park this summer, keep the risk of federal DUI in mind. Note: the legal BAC limit on federal land is still .08%.

Federal Drug Crimes

There are numerous types of federal drug crimes with a wide range of potential penalties. Let’s discuss what you should know about what makes a drug crime a federal offense.

Federal Drug Schedules

Each state is allowed to make its own drug laws, as we’ve seen with some states legalizing marijuana and decriminalizing other types of drugs. However, if there is any confusion about the legality of a substance, the federal drug schedule takes precedence. This schedule classifies drugs based on their perceived danger or high chance of abuse. Schedule 1 drugs are considered the most dangerous and Schedule V are the least dangerous.

  • Schedule I: LSD, marijuana, heroin
  • Schedule II: Adderall, Ritalin
  • Schedule III: Ketamine, testosterone, steroids
  • Schedule IV: Xanax, Valium, Tramadol
  • Schedule V: Lyrica, Motofen, Robitussin

What Makes Something a Federal Drug Crime?

Similar to federal DUI, federal drug crimes largely depend on where the offense takes place. You may face federal drug charges if your drug offense involved crossing state or country borders.

Crimes that occur when the defendant cross borders are considered federal offenses because they violate multiple state laws. This could be in a few different circumstances:

  • By car: if you travel across borders with drugs in your car, you could be charged with trafficking.
  • By mail: if your crime involves the U.S. postal service, you could be charged at the federal level. For example, illegally mailing someone marijuana from a state where it’s legal to purchase.
  • Online: did you know that online drug trafficking is a crime? If you commit a drug crime online, like illegal sale, you could face federal charges.

You may also be charged with a federal drug crime if your offense occurred on federal property. For example, possessing an illegal substance at a national park.

Drug Trafficking

The most common federal drug offense is drug trafficking. While many people believe drug trafficking involves transporting an enormous amount of a drug across country borders and distributing the drug, drug trafficking charges can actually result from more minor offenses, like simply bringing a drug from one state to another. Many of the above scenarios will lead to federal drug trafficking charges.

Federal drug trafficking penalties vary depending on the Schedule classification of the drug involved. Methamphetamine is the most commonly trafficked drug in America, accounting for about 33% of all drug trafficking cases.

For this Schedule II drug, potential penalties include:

  • 5-40 years in prison
  • Up to $5 million in fines

If someone was injured or killed during the trafficking, the prison sentence may increase to 20 years to life.

Mandatory Minimums for Federal Drug Crimes

Many federal drug offense convictions require that the defendant serves a mandatory minimum prison sentence. This is the minimum length of time they must serve to match their conviction. For example, methamphetamine trafficking has a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. This means that if the defendant is convicted, they must serve five years, and the judge does not have the discretion to alter the sentence to be lower.

What To Do If Facing Federal Charges

Federal charges, no matter the type, are serious and need to be handled properly. From the moment you are aware of a case against you, contact a criminal defense attorney. At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., we have handled a variety of federal cases and know how the federal court system differs from that at the state level. We can use our knowledge to help build a strong defense on your behalf and ultimately achieve the best possible result for your case.

Don’t delay hiring defense for your federal case. The sooner you get in contact with us, the sooner we can get to work helping you. Call Hager & Schwartz, P.A. at (954) 840-8713 or use our online consultation request form today.