Most minor drug offenses are state crimes. While state prohibition statutes largely mirror federal rules, every state determines on its own what substances it wants to prohibit or limit public access to through statute.
When someone gets pulled over in traffic and then arrested for a possession offense, they will usually face prosecution in state court and charges brought under state statutes. The same is true of those arrested for selling small amounts of drugs to people in their neighborhoods.
However, sometimes the federal drug prohibition statutes are the ones that lead to someone’s prosecution for a drug offense. When would a substance-related offense likely result in federal prosecution?
When it occurs on federal property
If someone brings drugs into a federal prison or gets caught using prohibited substances in a federal park, they will usually face federal prosecution instead of state prosecution. Texas has a real issue with substance abuse and even overdose deaths at penal facilities, despite efforts by facilities to crack down on visitors, mail and other possible sources of drugs.
Depending on where an offense occurs, the charges someone faces for possession or transportation of drugs could be federal offenses. The jurisdiction in such cases gives the government the option to prosecute, although they may allow the state to pursue charges instead in some cases.
When there is a federal investigation
Someone accused of having connections to organized drug trafficking could end up on the radar of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or similar federal agencies. When someone’s arrest and prosecution are the result of federal law enforcement efforts, federal prosecution is frequently the result.
When the individual crosses state lines with drugs
If you drive a few hours across state lines to visit your sister in Oklahoma, you could face life-altering criminal charges if police officers pull you over at the border or just over the border. The same is true for those who try to cross international boundaries while in possession of prohibited substances.
Federal prosecution is very likely for anyone implicated in an interstate offense, including drug conspiracies that involve people living in separate states or countries. The kind of evidence the prosecution has gathered and the exact charges brought in federal court will influence the best defense strategy.
Fighting back is often the best solution for those facing federal criminal charges that could lead to life-altering consequences.