If You Are Facing Federal Drug Charges, You Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer in Sacramento With Experience Handling Drug Crime Defense Work In Federal Court
Many of the activities involving the production, sale, possession, or use of illicit drugs violate both state and federal criminal law. However, some activities violate only either a state law or a federal law.
For example, in California, despite statewide propositions that have sought to legalize marijuana use for medical purposes, federal law still prohibits the manufacture, sale, and possession of marijuana. Accordingly, individuals who believe they may conduct certain marijuana-related activities in California with impunity are mistaken, and may be surprised to find themselves arrested and charged by federal authorities. This is just one example where, when state and federal laws differ, a defendant may find himself or herself charged with a federal rather than state drug crime.
You may also find yourself facing federal charges rather than state charges if you were arrested on federal property, the offense involved crossing state lines or activities in more than one state, you were arrested by a federal law enforcement officer (for example, an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration), or the offense otherwise involved federal issues.
But even where a drug offense violates both state and federal law, it is not uncommon to be charged with a federal crime rather than a state crime and to be tried in federal court. It is important to remember that the state of California’s criminal enforcement bodies are entirely different and separate from federal criminal law enforcement bodies, although they may work together on occasion.
Consequently, each different governmental entity has the discretion to allocate resources according to its own priorities, and just because a given California law enforcement body may decide to dedicate minimal resources toward drug crime enforcement, the federal government often has an entirely different set of priorities. Currently, the federal government dedicates significant resources toward targeting drug offenders. As a result, depending upon the circumstances, the likelihood of being charged with a federal offense as opposed to a state offense varies greatly.
Finally, it is not uncommon for state and federal prosecutors to make an agreement, for their own reasons, to prosecute a drug case in federal rather than state court. In particular, federal courts and prosecutors often have a less crowded criminal case docket, and more funds to dedicate to pursuing drug cases than the State of California. As a result, California district attorneys often welcome the opportunity to “hand off” a given drug case to federal authorities.
Facing Prison Time for Federal Drug Charges is Generally More Serious than Facing Drug Charges in California Courts
However it happens, facing federal drug charges is extremely serious business. In 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available, the federal government filed 14,149 narcotics cases against nearly 28,000 defendants. Even more importantly, in 2010, in the over 14,000 cases that were concluded against over 27,000 defendants:
- federal prosecutors won convictions against 92% of the defendants;
- 90% of those convicted defendants were sentenced to prison terms;
- 69% of the sentences were longer than 3 years; and
- 45% of the sentences were longer than 5 years.
In general, over the last several decades, the federal government has placed a priority upon the prosecution of drug crimes, and in particular in pursuing narcotics cases as they relate to organized crime. While around 20% of all prisoners incarcerated in California for drug crimes, in contrast, due largely to the mandatory sentencing laws as explained below, nearly half of all inmates in federal prisons today are there for drug and drug-related crimes, whether it be possession, trafficking, manufacture, or other crimes related to drugs and organized crime centered on the drug trade.
Additionally, as noted above, under the federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act passed in 1986, federal courts are bound by mandatory sentencing minimums for drug crimes. This means that federal judges have no discretion to impose less than these minimums, regardless of the specific facts which may be involved in a particular case (such as possession of a very small amount of drugs), and these minimum sentences are frequently much harsher than sentences imposed under most state sentencing guidelines, including California’s. In addition, unlike the California state prison system, which is generally overtaxed, the federal prison system is much less crowded, and the possibility of parole is all but nonexistent.
If You Are Facing Federal Drug Charges, Call Us
If you are facing federal criminal drug charges, you cannot afford to risk your freedom and your future by relying on a federal public defender with an unmanageable caseload or on a criminal defense attorney with little or no experience. Our criminal defense lawyer in Sacramento are prepared to represent defendants charged with any federal narcotics-related offenses in federal district court, and we will not take your case unless we are confident that we have the resources, knowledge, and experience to capably and aggressively represent your interests.
We have offices conveniently located in downtown Sacramento and you can reach us by (916) 441-3500. If you or someone close to you needs advice or representation from an experienced drug crime defense attorney, contact us right away for a consultation.