Drug Offense Penalties
There are few areas of legal prosecution that are enforced as seriously as drug offenses. Most states are generally consistent about classification, though some states use differing policies based on local situations arising from different types of drug use. Though the types of drug use are usually similar, different regions of the country can experience distinct problems within the area based on logistics.
Most controlled substances are classified as felonies within the law. Drug trafficking charges can be enhanced particularly easy based on the quantity and the nature of the substance. There are also many prescription drugs that are legal when carried in the proper container by the authorized individual and charges over improper container can often be reduced, but rarely dismissed, especially with a valid arrest report.
The current drug that is considered most aggravating is manufacturing methamphetamine. Depending on amount, this can be either a Class D or C felony charge and the level of aggravating circumstances can carry more charges, such as wanton endangerment in the event of an explosion. The problem is the activity associated with the use. In the event of a plea bargain some charges may be adjusted, but the drug offenses rarely are.
In most states, based on uniform sentencing guidelines, a Class D felony carries a punishment of at least one to five years of incarceration and varying fines of considerable amount. This is often based on the level of trafficking and potential income and value. Values can be estimated, which can affect enhancement. In most states there is a probation process, but normally availability is only on the first charge of that type. Multiple offenders can count on some jail time.
Class C felonies are assessed at five to 10 years of incarceration. Class B carries 10 to 20 years in most states. Differing states have differing rules on how much time constitutes a year and allowance for reduced penalties through legislative actions, like “Governor’s Good Time.” Model prisoners usually get recognized for good behavior, but don’t count on it. Class A felonies are normally associated with violence and begin at 20 years incarceration in most states. Use of a firearm is also an enhancer, especially if used in commission of a crime.
Another issue with drug offenses is the level of government that has filed the charge. Federal penalties also fall within Supreme Court sentencing guidelines, but the availability of federal parole can be a more restrictive. It does require a documented reason for parole denial by the U.S. Federal Parole Commission, which is appointed by the President.
Prosecutors accept charging drug offenders as one of their most serious duties. The guidelines are in place to protect the defendant from excessive punishment from systems that use tough uniform policies. But the guidelines are also tough. And the prosecutors are not afraid to follow them to the limit, in certain cases.