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What’s the difference between a state and federal drug charge?

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Drug crimes can fall under either state or federal jurisdiction. If you find yourself asking why it matters if state or federal prosecutors will be handling your case, it comes down; each court system has its own way of handling cases

Your knowledge of this information can prove valuable as you decide how to proceed in your case. 

How are state and federal drug charges similar?

Generally speaking, if a substance is illegal under New York Penal Law Section 220, it’s also illegal under federal law. State drug laws often closely reflect the federal laws (with the notable exception of marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law but is permitted for adult use in New York).

What’s different between state and federal drug charges?

The federal government tends to be more aggressive about drug crimes than the state. What might be a misdemeanor drug offense at the state level could easily be a felony at the federal level — and the punishments for felonies are higher. You can also usually anticipate the potential punishment for a drug conviction in federal court to be stiffer than what you’d receive in a state court.

What may rise to the level of a federal drug offense?

Federal prosecutors, known as U.S. Attorneys, tend to go after bigger drug cases, such as traffickers or manufacturers. These cases often involve a significant amount of drugs, have the potential to impact more people (if the substances make it to the streets), and often involve transportation across country or state borders. 

This knowledge may affect whether you decide to accept a plea deal or the defense strategy you choose to employ at trial. Learning everything you can about your situation is wise.