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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Drug Crimes / Federal vs State Drug Charges

Federal vs State Drug Charges


As most Floridians are aware, their state has some of the toughest drug laws in the United States. However, what may escape notice is that U.S. federal drug charges can be as tough or even tougher, with stiff mandatory minimum sentences still being upheld for most drug-related crimes. If you have been charged with a drug offense in Florida, it is crucial that you understand the possibility of being charged under federal law instead of state law – and how much that eventuality would raise the stakes.

Federal & State Sentences Are Similar

A drug crime may be either a federal or a state offense, though some events may influence which system will process an individual drug charge – for example, if an officer from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) makes the arrest, it will almost certainly result in federal drug charges, rather than state. Another common factor is the nature of the offense itself – for example, sending drugs through the mail is a federal offense, so the drug charges stemming from it will also be tried as federal offenses.

One thing to be aware of is that unlike with other charges, the schedule of the drug involved will generally not matter in terms of whether the charge will be state or federal. Because Florida’s drug laws mirror federal regulations fairly closely, the schedule of the drug is less important than the overall amount in question – the higher the amount, the more severe the charge.

If You Are Charged

If you have been charged with drug offenses under federal law, it is critical that you take the charges seriously. Both Florida and federal law enforce what are known as mandatory minimum sentences, which are sentences requiring the convicted person to serve a percentage of their sentence – no exceptions – before release. Depending on the case, the mandatory minimum sentence on conviction can be as low as 1 year or as high as 20.

One variation between federal and Florida law that you should be aware of is that Florida law actually has stricter rules about the nature of admissible evidence at a sentencing hearing. When a person is found guilty of a federal drug offense, there are no limitations on what type of evidence that can be used in factoring an appropriate sentence. In other words, a federal judge may weigh character and background evidence in determining a sentence, while a state-level judge is more restricted.

Contact A West Palm Beach Drug Offenses Attorney

Being charged with a drug offense is always a serious matter, but if you have been charged with a federal drug offense, the stakes are much higher. A West Palm Beach drug crimes attorney from Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can help you get a sense of the process and ensure your rights are protected. Contact our office today to speak to an attorney.



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