State Vs Federal Drug Charges
Due to its geography and history, Florida has an unfortunately high amount of drug crime, particularly in the southern part of the state. State drug laws are harsh in response; with a higher percentage of drug-related crime than many other states, prosecutors will pursue drug offenders aggressively. However, if the crime is egregious enough, and meets certain criteria, drug offenders may be charged under federal statutes, rather than state law. There are notable differences in prosecution and in potential sentence between federal and Florida laws, and it is crucial to understand them if you have been charged with an offense.
Deciding Where To Charge
Drug charges are serious, regardless of whether you are charged under state or federal law. In general, however, federal charges carry stiffer sentences (very often, mandatory minimums) and more potential long-lasting consequences than state charges, though being convicted in Florida can affect all aspects of your life. The decision of whether to charge someone under state or federal law is generally up to prosecutors, but in general, you are more likely to face federal charges if you have allegedly engaged in drug trafficking. Trafficking involves moving large amounts of illegal drugs, usually over state lines (in “interstate commerce”).
There are several factors that prosecutors weigh in determining whether or not to charge a defendant with federal crimes, as opposed to state offenses. If the defendant is involved with a known drug organization, or if their activities have crossed state lines, these plus being caught with a very large amount of drugs are the main issues that prosecutors will consider. Others include the presence or absence of any other pending offenses (like a weapons charge, for example) or how much you cooperated with the arresting officers. Smaller offenses like simple drug possession are more likely to be tried under state laws.
Florida Drug Laws Are Narrow & Specific
If your alleged crime was of a more minor nature, such as simple possession or manufacture on a small scale, you are more likely to face Florida charges, but depending on the specific facts of your situation, the outcome can be just as life-changing as being charged with federal crimes. Conviction of a drug offense in Florida can and usually does result in the suspension of one’s driving license, and in addition to the jail time, fines, and costs assessed against a convicted defendant, social consequences also come about.
While federal sentences are quite severe, Florida’s have much more variance depending on the drug involved. Florida’s laws rely on the total weight of the substance involved in each case; if the weight is over a certain amount, you will be more likely to face felony charges, which can carry between 5 and 30 years, depending on the offense of which you were convicted. For example, if you were stopped with 1 gram of methamphetamine, you will likely face a lesser charge than someone who was stopped with 14 grams.
Contact A West Palm Beach Drug Offenses Attorney
Too many people see drug offenses as relatively minor, but depending on the situation, they can be extremely serious; in the worst-case scenario drugs can put you behind bars for far longer than you think. If you have been charged with state or federal drug offenses, a West Palm Beach drug crimes attorney from the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. may be able to help get your questions answered. Call our offices today to schedule a consultation.