Crime Overview Drug Possession

Drug possession is the crime of having one or more illegal drugs in one's possession. This could be for personal use, distribution, sale or other reasons.

An estimated 14,000 people die every year in the United States due to illegal drugs and thousands more die due to criminal activities related to illegal drug possession. Therefore, federal and state laws have determined that holding, owning, carrying, or any form of illegal possession of a drug, is a crime again society.

It is a crime to have in your possession illegal drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, heroin, ecstasy or other illegal "club drugs." It is also a crime to possess unauthorized prescription medication. Possession of the chemicals and materials needed to manufacture drugs is often covered under drug possession laws, as is possession of drug paraphernalia.

Both federal and state laws deal with drug possession. In the United States the penalty for illegal drugs vary from a small fine to a prison sentence. In some states, marijuana possession may only be a petty offense, comparable to speeding. Criminal charges can vary depending on the circumstances surrounding the arrest and possession, such as the amount of drugs you have in your possession. If you have a significant amount of drugs, you may be charged with possession with intent to distribute. The geographic area of the offense is also important. For example, being in possession of illegal drugs at a school could be more problematic than being in possession in your home.

The prosecution and penalties for drug possession will also vary depending on the type of drug involved. Drugs are categorized into different classes, with more addictive drugs, or ones that are believed to lead to more violence, being treated more harshly.

Drug possession charges can be misdemeanors or felonies, and can lead to serious jail time. If you are arrested on a drug possession charge, it is important to get a criminal defense attorney to represent your interests. Being arrested for possession of an illegal drug, and the potential aftermath of being convicted of a drug-related felony, can have serious implications on your future, including your employment and your ability to rent an apartment or house.

While many people convicted of drug-related charges are not violent criminals, some of the state mandates in place require one to three years of imprisonment for a first offense and three to 12 years for repeat offenders. However, depending on the circumstances and the state laws that apply, lesser sentences can be applied or negotiated through a plea bargain.

Because of the devastating effects that drug use and abuse have had on our country, federal laws have been enacted to make drug charges and sentences more serious. The federal laws have been used as a model for the states, so while state laws may vary some from the federal mandates, there are more similarities than differences. Some states have drug rehabilitation programs that are used in conjunction, or as an alternative sentence to, prison time for drug possession charges. Many states also require drug testing as a part of a probation plan.

Mandatory minimum sentences in drug possession laws have been under scrutiny recently, because of the inability for courts to be flexible in sentencing when a person's background, family situation, or threat to society is evaluated.

Also covered under the drug possession statutes are the materials or chemicals used to manufacture drugs, called "precursors," and drug paraphernalia, such as crack pipes.

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