Drug crimes are a complex group of crimes, ranging from simple possession to trafficking. Each level of crime is complex and comes with potential for serious punishment, such as up to life in prison and substantial monetary fines up to $1,000,000.
Controlled Substance Schedules
Drugs are divided into five “schedules,” or groups of classification:
- Schedule 1: Drugs that have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Examples: Heroin, MDMA (Ecstasy), and Meth.
- Schedule 2: Drugs that have a high potential for abuse, and has some accepted medical use. Examples: Opiates such as Adderall, Codeine and Oxycodone.
- Schedule 3: Drugs with less potential for abuse than 1 and 2 but may still lead to abuse and dependence. Examples: Poly Tussin, pseudoephedrine, etc.
- Schedule 4: Any substance that has the potential for abuse associated with a depressant effect on the central nervous system. Examples: Barbital, Diazepam.
- Schedule 5: Any drugs or substances that lead to dependence or abuse such that a prescription should be required. Examples: Cough syrups, cold medicines, “lean.”
Felony Drug Crimes
Manufacture, delivery, pr possession with the intent to manufacture, create, or deliver a controlled substance. Sentences can hold up to life in prison and a $1,000,000 fine based on the quantity and type of controlled substance.
Schedule 1 or 2
- 1,000 grams or more: punishable by life in prison and/or a $1,000,000 fine
- 450-1,000 grams: punishable up to 30 years and/or a $500,000 fine
- 50-450 grams: up to 20 years and $250,000 fine
- 25-50 grams: up to four (4) years and/or $25,000 fine.
- Less than 25 grams: up to four (4) years and $25,000 fine.
*Ecstasy or Meth: up to 10 years and/or $15,000 fine
Schedule 3 and 4
Drugs that fall under this category carry up to 2 years in jail or prison and/or $2,000 fine.
Delivery of a Controlled Substance To An Individual
If you give someone a controlled substance without their consent as part of a sexual assault, you can be sentenced up to 20 years in prison in addition to any sentence in the assault case.
The charge of delivery of prescription drugs without a prescription carries a punishment of up to life in prison and/or a $1,000,000 fine. If you are found guilty of the charge of carrying prescription drugs improperly labeled holds of sentence of up to four (4) years and/or a $5,000 fine.
The use of a controlled substance is punishable of up to 1 year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine. If you are found in possession of schedule 5 drugs, you may be sentenced up to one (1) year and/or a $2,000 fine.
Federal Drug Crimes
You can be charged with drug crimes in federal court. The punishments are similar to the state punishments, but are not the same. Many federal drug charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence if convicted. Most often, the punishment for federal drug crimes is more severe than a state drug crime.
The most common federal drug crime is trafficking across state lines, which carries a minimum 10-year sentence in prison.
How to Avoid a Drug Crime Conviction
- Remain silent. You have rights for a reason, use them. Make it clear, courts have held an ambiguous statement such as, “maybe I shouldn’t say anything” does not invoke your right to remain silent. Be crystal clear by saying, “I am invoking my right to remain silent and I would like an attorney.” Do not let the police scare you into talking by threats of arrest; you cannot talk your way out of an arrest, but you can certainly talk your way into one.
- Do not consent to a search without a warrant. The Constitution protect you from unreasonable search and seizure. You can waive that right by consenting to a search by law enforcement. Do not give up your constitution rights without consulting an attorney.
- A large number of drug cases start with a traffic stop. Avoid traffic stops by ensuring your vehicle is properly registered and insured. Avoid illegal tint. Do not drive if your license is suspended. Do not speed and pay attention to traffic signs. An attorney can challenge the legitimacy of a traffic stop in your case.
How Can a Drug Crime Attorney Help My Case?
Hire an attorney who can challenge the case against you by:
- Challenging the search or stop
- Challenging the admission of evidence
- Investigating the case
- Speaking to witnesses
- Preparing for trial
What If You Cannot Avoid a Conviction?
Sometimes, avoiding a conviction is not an option. However, you still need an attorney to advocate for the best possible outcome who is aware of all the programs and procedures available to keep you out of jail or prison:
- Plea agreements: agreement with the prosecutor regarding reducing or dismissing some or all of the charges against you in exchange for a guilty plea.
- Sentencing agreements: agreement with the prosecutor about the sentence you will receive in exchange for a plea of guilty.
- Cobbs agreements: An agreement from the judge as to how you will be sentenced if you take a plea. If the judge cannot honor the agreement at sentencing you can withdraw your plea and proceed to trial.
Courts have a wide range of sentencing options if you are found guilty of a drug crime. Many factors come into consideration for sentencing such as:
- Prior criminal history
- History of substance abuse
- Type and quantity of controlled substance
There are options to avoid jail time, A few of the options are:
- Adult Treatment Courts,
- Zero Tolerance Program,
- Drug Court,
- Delayed sentencing, and/or
- Federal “safety valve.”
Each option has a set of eligibility requirements, and each local court may have additional programs available to avoid jail or prison.
Hiring a Drug Crime Attorney
You need to hire an experienced drug crime attorney to protect your rights sooner than later. You want an attorney present at all phases of your case to advise you of your rights. Some rights can be waived during the legal process if you are not careful. Therefore, you need a competent attorney who knows if your case should be tried by a jury or negotiated to help you avoid prison time.
Michael Norman is a trial attorney practicing both civil and criminal litigation. Over the last 16 years, he has handled hundreds of cases; collecting millions of dollars for civil plaintiffs and multiple not-guilty verdicts for criminal defendants. He received his BA from Clark Atlanta University in 1998 in Sociology and Criminal Justice. He earned his JD from Georgia State University in 2004, where he served as president of the Black Law Student Association 2003. Michael is admitted to practice law in Michigan, the state of Georgia, federal courts and the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Michael was born and raised in the City of Detroit. He served in the Marine Corps after high school until he was discharged in Georgia, where he settled and attended both undergraduate and law school. After interning with the Department of Justice, he has continuously represented criminal defendants and civil plaintiffs in Michigan and Georgia courts. Michael was recognized by the State Bar of Georgia Committee on Professionalism in 2007. He returned permanently to Michigan in 2013 and continues to represent clients in both criminal and civil cases.