State and Federal Drug Charges: What is the Difference?

2State and Federal Drug Charges: What is the Difference?

When you have been charged with a drug crime, the offense is likely serious. You could face a number of severe penalties if you are found guilty. Drug charges can be confusing, especially because there are various state or federal drug charges that could apply in your case. It is helpful to understand the types of charges and potential penalties for drug crimes in North Carolina.


Types of Controlled Substances

Illegal drugs are called controlled substances. There are many types of controlled substances, and some are more dangerous than others. The law categorizes drugs into five schedules. The drug schedules define the types of drugs that it includes.

  • Schedule I – Heroin, LSD, Ecstasy, Marijuana, Mushrooms
  • Schedule II – Morphine, Cocaine, Meth, Oxycodone, Adderall, Ritalin
  • Schedule III – Codeine, Steroids, Ketamine, Testosterone
  • Schedule IV – Benzodiazepines (such as Valium and Xanax)
  • Schedule V – Analgesics, Antitussives, Antidiarrheal Medications

Schedule I drugs are considered to be the most dangerous category because they are associated with a high instance of abuse and addiction. The penalties that you will face generally correspond to the type of drug that was found.


Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Can I be arrested without evidence against me?”


Drug Charges

Drug charges fall into one of several categories, depending on the type and amount of controlled substance that was found. You could face possession for personal use, possession with intent to distribute, sale, delivery, cultivation, or paraphernalia, among others. Possession for personal use is a misdemeanor and has a lower penalty than trafficking. Drug charges may be misdemeanors or felonies. The law does not clearly define the guidelines for whether a drug crime will be charged at the state or federal level.roach-1406183-scaled


A drug crime is typically charged as a federal crime when the crime is more serious, such as trafficking. Trafficking often implies that illegal activities crossed state lines, which would automatically make it a felony. If the crime occurred on federal property, it will be charged as a felony. When a federal agency is involved, such as the DEA, the crime will be charged as a felony. If the crime involved the use of a firearm, it will be a felony. Also, if the crime is tied to other federal crimes, it will be charged as a felony.


What is the Difference Between the State and Federal Legal Process?

If you are charged with a state drug charge, the state’s attorney from the jurisdiction will prosecute the case. These cases are prosecuted in the local court system, according to state laws. If you are charged with a felony, the U.S. attorney’s office handles the prosecution in federal court. Both courts are similar but have their own unique set of rules that govern the process. Federal criminal prosecutors often have more resources and therefore may be better able to investigate the case.


Regardless of whether you are facing state or federal drug charges, you will want to vigorously defend the charges with help from an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, we have experience defending all types of drug crimes, both in state and federal court. If you were charged with a drug crime, contact us as soon as possible. Call us today at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, at (704) 370-2828 for an initial consultation.






The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.



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