Often, the nuanced language used by law enforcement officers and prosecutors can impact people’s lives in truly meaningful ways. The words that are used to describe an alleged criminal offense may mean the difference between being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, for example. This reality exists because criminal law in the U.S. is an exacting reality. People cannot – theoretically – be placed behind bars unless very specific legal elements have been proven. As a result, legal standards themselves are described very precisely.
There is, perhaps, no greater example of this reality than U.S. drug law. How alleged wrongdoing is described and classified – from the most exacting measurements of how much of a specific drug is in one’s possession to whether there is any indication that someone’s intent was not simply to use a drug but to distribute it – create the foundation of the charges that are levied against a specific individual.
And yet, there are times when broad terms are used to describe a “type” of offense comprised of specific acts of wrongdoing that are associated with one another in meaningful ways. Such is the case with drug distribution offenses.
What Is Drug Distribution?
Drug distribution is an umbrella term, used to describe a specific category of drug offenses that extend beyond mere possession. Generally speaking, drug distribution is a term that refers to offense types involving:
- The sale of unlawful controlled substances
- The importation or exportation of unlawful controlled substances
- The manufacture of unlawful controlled substances
- The delivery or transfer of unlawful controlled substances
When someone is charged with the “mere” possession of a controlled substance, they may face significant criminal consequences because of simply having a drug on their person or within their control. By contrast, drug distribution crimes are generally concerned with the drug trade and drug trafficking. These crimes are generally considered to be more serious than possession charges, although some exceptions to this rule play out if the sale or delivery of an insignificant amount of an unlawful controlled substance or the possession of large amounts of an unlawful controlled substance is in question.
When someone is found to be in possession of a significant amount of an unlawful controlled substance, it may be inferred that they intended to sell or otherwise distribute the drug, not simply to use the substance personally. As a result of this reality, some possession cases turn into distribution cases because of inferred intent.
Governing Law: Drug Distribution Crimes
Drug distribution crimes can be prosecuted at the state level and/or the federal level, depending upon the unique circumstances of someone’s case. Most of the time, drug charges are classified as federal crimes if the distribution issue at the heart of a case involves crossing state lines or crossing international borders. For example, the importation of cocaine from the southern border into Texas would be considered a federal crime, as would the sale of drugs that were cultivated in California and brought over the border for use in Texas. When drug distribution crimes are prosecuted federally, the governing law is the federal Controlled Substances Act.
When a drug distribution crime takes place wholly within Texas-state borders, the Texas Controlled Substances Act is the law that will govern an alleged offender’s criminal case. Although the federal and Texas Controlled Substances Acts do bear many similarities, it is vitally important that anyone who has been charged with a drug distribution crime speaks with an experienced criminal defense attorney who practices in Texas to better understand the situation they’re facing.
Federal Versus State Criminal Prosecution
If you are charged with a federal drug distribution crime, you will be tried in federal court, you’ll risk penalties as outlined in federal laws, and – if you are convicted and sentenced to a term of incarceration – you are going to serve time in a federal facility. Conversely, if you are charged with a state drug distribution crime, you will be tried in state court, risk penalties as outlined in state laws, and – if you are convicted and sentenced to a term of incarceration – you’ll serve time in a state facility.
It is also not uncommon for individuals who have been charged with drug distribution crimes to be charged with both federal and state wrongdoing. Under these circumstances, you could be tried separately or simultaneously for your alleged offenses, and you could face penalties specific to each forum.
The Consequences Of A Drug Distribution Conviction
The potential penalties you’ll face in the event of a conviction will be largely dependent upon the type of infraction you allegedly committed, the kind of drug in question, the amount of the drug in question, and whether you’re being charged at the federal or state level. This is why it is so difficult to speak about the broad category of drug distribution offenses with any real specificity. Everyone’s case is going to be shaped by these four factors and the differences in each one of them can alter someone’s situation radically.
For example, if you have been charged for the first time of trafficking ten grams of LSD under federal law, you will face no fewer than five years in prison and you may be sentenced to as many as 40 years. But if you have been charged with trafficking just two additional grams of LSD – even though it is your first offense – you will face a term of incarceration in federal prison for no fewer than 10 years. If your offense leads to the death or serious injury of another person, you’ll also face up to millions of dollars in fines under either scenario.
Broadly speaking, if you are convicted of a drug distribution crime, you’re likely facing any or all the following penalties as part of your sentencing:
- A term of incarceration, likely in prison, not jail
- A term of supervised release once you have served your term of incarceration
- Steep fines
- Mandatory counseling and substance abuse treatment, depending on the nature of your circumstances
Additionally, the collateral consequences associated with a drug distribution conviction cannot be overstated. Most drug distribution crimes are classified as felonies, which means that if you’re convicted, you’ll be required to disclose the nature of your offense whenever you’re asked about your criminal history by financial lenders, potential landlords, possible employers, and even administrators at your child’s school if you’re trying to volunteer in your capacity as a parent.
Your criminal record will make it more difficult to get housing, secure a job, pursue additional educational opportunities, and get financing. You also may suffer from the stigma that is associated with former felons, even if you lead a truly blameless life for decades after you have served your debt to society.
Can You Represent Yourself When Facing Drug Distribution Charges?
You do not, under any circumstances, want to represent yourself if you have been charged with a drug distribution offense. The U.S. Constitution does grant criminal defendants the right to represent their own interests in court under most circumstances. However, this is inadvisable for a host of reasons, not least of which is the reality that the stakes of your situation are so high that you – quite simply – cannot afford the risk of losing if the circumstances might allow for you to win your case.
The criminal justice system was not designed with self-represented defendants in mind. This is why even the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged in its landmark Gideon v. Wainwright case that lawyers are necessities, not luxuries in criminal cases. You need someone by your side who understands both the law and the art of crafting a strong legal defense. You deserve the chance to win your case and that chance will all but disappear if you opt to represent yourself.
Contact A Reputable Texas Drug Distribution Attorney Today For Guidance
If you have been accused of any criminal infraction that falls under the umbrella term “drug distribution,” you need to connect with a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately. There may be a variety of criminal defense strategies that you can take advantage of, but the strength of your case could be compromised with every minute that passes in which your interests aren’t represented by counsel. The stakes of your situation are simply too high to wait any longer to connect with a criminal defense lawyer who is capable of aggressively advocating on behalf of your interests and who has a reputation that speaks for itself.
The lawyers at The Cofer Luster Law Firm have extensive experience representing the people of Fort Worth, Texas, and its surrounding communities. Our firm treats every case with the care and attention to detail that it deserves, and we communicate with each of our clients with the respect that they deserve. Call (682) 777-3336 or contact our team online to learn more about our firm’s professional approach and to begin building the strongest possible defense available to you under the circumstances.