When does a drug crime change from a state to a federal charge?

| May 12, 2020 | Federal Crimes |

If you were to compare the schedule of Controlled Substances for the state of South Carolina and the federal government, you will find substantial overlap. For the most part, the same substances are illegal at both the state and federal level. South Carolina has not formally legalized any substances on the controlled substance list, despite the spreading popularity of such efforts.

Individuals who get arrested in South Carolina while in possession of a banned substance, whether the drug in question is methamphetamine or marijuana, will likely face criminal charges brought by the state.

However, there are circumstances in which the state will not be the one to charge you. Many people wind up facing federal drug charges, which can result in incarceration in a federal penitentiary and the imposition of federal mandatory minimum sentences, which are quite strict.

When does the federal government choose to prosecute drug crimes?

There are many reasons that federal agencies might get involved in the investigation and prosecution of drug crimes in South Carolina. One of the most common reasons for federal involvement in a drug case will be interstate trafficking, conspiracy or commerce.

If law enforcement officers allege that you traveled from another state to South Carolina while in possession of drugs or left the state with drugs in your possession, the act of crossing state lines may make your offense a federal one.

Additionally, if you find yourself facing charges involving trafficking or manufacturing allegations, and if other people involved in the alleged operation are in other countries or other states, that may also result in federal jurisdiction applying to the charges. Finally, people who get arrested for using, possessing, or transferring illegal or controlled substances on federal property, such as national parks, could also wind up prosecuted by the federal government.

Federal charges could potentially change your life forever

If you get accused of a drug crime and plead guilty to avoid jail, once you comply with all of the conditions set by the court, you could potentially move to another state where your criminal record won’t have such a dire impact on your employment prospects. The same is not true for those accused of federal drug offenses.

That charge will haunt you from state to state, regardless of where you go. Additionally, as with any drug charge, federal drug crimes will result in a permanent disqualification for federal student aid for higher education. These consequences combined with the mandatory minimum sentences imposed on drug offenders by the federal government can make a compelling reason to push back against pending federal drug charges.