Cleveland Federal Drug Crime Attorney
Award-Winning Federal Drug Crime Defense in Ohio
If you or someone you love were charged with a federal drug crime, or suspect that you are under investigation, the time to act is now.
The federal government is notorious for aggressive prosecution, high conviction rates, and harsh sentences – especially in cases involving drugs offenses. By taking immediate action and retaining a skilled defense attorney with experience in Ohio’s federal courts, you can begin working on a defense that positions you for the best possible outcome.
At HMW Law, our award-winning Cleveland federal drug crime lawyers have decades of collective experience helping defendants in the federal criminal justice system fight to protect their rights, freedoms, and futures. We know how agencies like the DEA and FBI investigate federal drug offenses and how U.S. Attorneys work to gain convictions. Most importantly, we work harder than the government and have the insight and resources to help clients effectively challenge the allegations against them.
When Is a Drug Crime a Federal Case?
Drug offenses can fall under the jurisdiction of state or federal authorities. While most drug offenses are handled by state law enforcement and state courts, some are taken up by the federal government. A drug crime case may become federal when the following factors are involved:
- Federal law enforcement agencies (DEA, FBI, ATF, etc.) are involved in the investigation.
- The alleged offenses involve large quantities of illegal substances.
- Interstate activity, such as trafficking or transporting drugs across state lines.
- Violations of federal health care laws regarding prescription drugs and provider regulations, including the FCA, AKS, and Stark Law.
- Marijuana cultivation offenses that violate federal law.
- Crimes committed on federal land.
- Drug offenses committed in relation to conspiracies involving multiple people or organized crime (RICO / CCE).
Types of Federal Drug Crimes
Federal drug offenses are outlined in Title 21 of the U.S. Code. These statutes cover various types of federal crimes and various substances (from cocaine, heroin, MDMA, and fentanyl to legal medications such as Xanax and OxyContin, and even marijuana) that are classified by drug Schedules.
At HMW Law, our defense attorneys have considerable experience handling federal drug crime charges involving all types of illegal substances and charges. This includes federal offenses such as:
Some examples of federal drug crimes include:
- Manufacturing a controlled or counterfeit substance
- Drug distribution (sale)
- Drug trafficking / transportation
- Illegal distribution of prescription drugs / prescription fraud
- Dispensing a controlled substance over the internet
- Possessing a controlled substance; and
Regardless of the offense or the substance involved, our Cleveland federal drug crime lawyers can provide the counsel you need. We are familiar with the federal justice process and have handled thousands of cases involving federal crimes and drug crimes.
Federal Drug Crime Penalties
Federal drug offenses carry severe and life-altering penalties and lengthy prison sentences. The penalties and sentence you face will depend on various factors, such as criminal history / prior convictions, the type and amount of drug involved, and the specific charge.
Here are some examples of the penalties for federal drug crimes:
21 USC §844 - Federal Drug Possession
- First offense: Up to 1 year in prison
- Second offense: Minimum 15 days to 2 years in prison
- Third or subsequent offense: Minimum 90 days to 3 years in prison
21 USC § 841(a)(1) – Distribution/Manufacturing/Possession with intent to Distribute
This offense carries a statutory maximum sentence of 20 years, with enhancements for (1) prior felony drug convictions or two or more felony drug or violent crimes; (2) injury or death resulting from use of the drug; (3) when drugs are distributed to individuals under 21 or near schools and other places frequented by youth; (4) continuing a criminal enterprise (drug kingpin); and (5) operating a drug-involved premises, among other enhancements.
Sentencing minimums and maximums for this offense will also depend on the type and quantity of drug involved. For example:
5-year mandatory minimum / 40-year maximum:
- Meth: 5 grams or more, 50 grams or more for meth mixture
- Heroin: 100 grams or more
- Cocaine: 500 grams or more
- Marijuana: 100 or more plants or 100 kg or more
- Crack: 28 grams or more
- Fentanyl: 40 grams or more
- PCP: 10 grams or more
- LSD: 1 gram or more
10-year mandatory minimum / Life maximum:
- Meth: 50 grams or more, 500 grams or more for meth mixture
- Heroin: 1kg or more
- Cocaine: 5kg or more
- Marijuana: 1,000 or more plants or 1,000 kg or more
- Crack: 280 grams or more
- Fentanyl: 400 grams or more
- PCP: 100 grams or more
- LSD: 10 gram or more
21 USC §841 – Federal Drug Trafficking
As with distribution charges, penalties for federal drug trafficking vary by quality and type of controlled substance. Some examples include:
First offense: Between 5 and 40 years in prison.
Second offense: 10 years to life in prison and/or a fine of up to $8,000,000 (if the defendant
is an individual) or $50,000,000 (if the defendant is not an individual).
For cases involving:
- 100 grams or more of a substance containing heroin;
- 500 grams or more of a substance containing cocoa leaves, cocaine, or ecgonine;
- 10 grams or more of PCP or 100 grams or more of a substance containing PCP;
- 1 gram or more of a substance containing LSD;
- 100 kilograms or more of a substance containing marijuana or 100 or more marijuana plants; or
- 5 grams or more of methamphetamine or 50 grams or more of a substance containing meth;
First offense: 10 years to life in prison.
Second or subsequent offense: 20 years to life in prison. For cases involving:
- 1 kilogram or more of a substance containing heroin;
- 5 kilograms or more of a substance containing cocoa leaves, cocaine, or ecgonine;
- 100 grams or more of PCP or 1 kilogram or more of a substance containing PCP;
- 10 grams or more of a substance containing LSD;
- 100 kilograms or more of a substance containing marijuana or 1,000 or more marijuana plants; or
- 50 grams or more of methamphetamine or 500 grams or more of a substance containing meth
Cases involving other Schedule I or II controlled substances:
- First offense: Up to 20 years in prison
- Second offense: Up to 30 years in prison
Cases involving 50 kilograms or more of marijuana or 50 or more marijuana plants:
- First offense: Up to 5 years in prison
- Second offense: Up to 10 years in prison
Cases involving other Schedule III controlled substances:
- First offense: Up to 10 years in prison
- Second offense: Up to 20 years in prison
Cases involving Schedule IV controlled substances:
- First offense: Up to 5 years in prison
- Second offense: Up to 10 years in prison
Cases involving Schedule V controlled substances:
- First offense: Up to 1 year of incarceration
- Second offense: Up to 4 years in prison
Difference Between State And Federal Drug Crimes
The distinction between state and federal drug crimes is important, as it helps defendants understand the seriousness of charges brought in federal court. Some important differences include:
- Resources. The federal government has incredible resources at its disposal to conduct investigations, compile large and complicated indictments, and prosecute defendants. These resources far exceed those in state cases, often to the detriment of defendants.
- Conviction Rates. Federal criminal courts have notoriously high conviction rates, with more than 97% of defendants pleading guilty to their charges. The power of the federal government is clear when it comes to convicting those who’ve been charged.
- Court Systems. State and federal drug cases are handled in separate court systems. While the prosecution still has the same burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, these courts focus on different charges (violations of state law vs. U.S. Code) and employ different rules and procedures. Defense attorneys must also be admitted to practice in federal court.
- Penalties. Drugs crimes have penalties whether they’re prosecuted in state of federal court, but penalties handed down in federal court are generally more severe. That’s due to harsh sentencing guidelines and sentencing enhancements, mandatory minimums, and the fact that federal inmates serve more of their sentences than those who serve time in state prison.
- Alternatives to Incarceration. Many states have transitioned to a lenient approach that allows drug crime defendants to participate in treatment, rehabilitation, and diversion to alleviate overburdened state courts and prisons. While there are some options for rehabilitation and treatment programs that can allow federal criminal defendants to reduce sentences, be incarcerated in less secure federal prisons or camps, or obtain more time in halfway housing, those options pale in comparison to what’s available in state court.
Will Your Federal Drug Case Go to Trial?
In the federal criminal justice system, few cases go to trial. In fact, studies have found that over 97% of federal criminal defendants plead guilty. That means a few things:
- Some federal criminal defendants and their defense attorneys can effectively dismantle the government’s case in pretrial motions and hearings and obtain a dismissal.
- Some federal defendants, including those charged with federal drug crimes, capitalize on their ability to participate in programs like RDAP, which can greatly reduce sentences.
- Most federal criminal defendants waive their right to trial by accepting plea agreements with the government, often with more favorable terms than what they would if convicted at going to trial.
- Many defendants who accept plea deals may have had strong cases for their innocence, but never got the chance to present them for fear of facing the “trial penalty.”
While there are valid justifications for taking a case to trial, the reality is that federal criminal defendants face a system skewed to favor the government. From harsh sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums to the very lengthy sentences handed down following trials, defendants in federal court are often faced with a difficult dilemma: accept a plea agreement for a less severe sentence or try to beat the charges and risk years or decades behind bars.
Ultimately, the question of whether your case will go to trial depends entirely on the facts of your case. There are ways to prevail in federal criminal drug crime cases and there are a variety of defenses that can be employed. There are also effective ways to greatly minimize penalties, sentences, and the overall impact of a conviction on your life.
At HMW Law, our federal drug crime lawyers work closely with clients to help them understand their available options, assess viable defenses, and tailor strategies to seek pretrial dismissals or reduced charges and penalties through plea agreements. We also invest time in helping clients evaluate the risks associated with each option so that they can make informed decisions about how their case is handled.
Most Common Defenses Used in Federal Drug Cases
Defense strategies in federal drug crime cases may involve pretrial motions and hearings that seek dismissal of charges, plea agreement negotiations that seek reduced charges and penalties, or defenses presented in trial that seek Not Guilty verdicts. Whatever the strategy for your case will be, understanding common defenses can be helpful as you begin evaluating your own.
At HMW Law, we construct customized defenses that position our clients for the best possible outcomes. Some common defenses employed in drug crime cases include:
- Law enforcement violations. This strategy may be used to explore how law enforcement conducted investigatory tactics such as surveillance and wire taps to ensure they were done in accordance with the law and to assess whether arresting officers had probable cause when stopping, detaining, and searching suspects. When law enforcement agencies violate a defendant’s Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful search and seizure or induce defendants to commit crimes (entrapment), there may be grounds to dismiss key evidence or charges entirely.
- Constructive possession. This defense may challenge the government’s assertion that you were in actual possession of illegal substances. It may be an important and viable defense when drugs were not actually found on your person during an arrest.
- Knowledge and intent. Asserting that a defendant did not have actual knowledge or intent to commit a crime is a common defense raised in federal drug crime cases. This may be used when a defendant charged with trafficking did not know they were carrying drugs or did not intend to traffic them.
- Duress. It is not uncommon that individuals involved in drug trafficking or other crimes were forced to do so under threat of injury to themselves or others. If it can be shown that a drug offense was committed only because a defendant was under duress, there may be a strong defense in the case.
Start Your Defense Today. Call (216) 220-6776
Federal drug crimes put your freedom and future on the line, which is why it’s of critical importance to reach out to an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible.
At HMW Law, we’re available immediately to speak with potential clients about their cases and how we can help them fight to protect their rights. Located in Cleveland, our federal drug crime lawyers proudly serve clients in federal courts across Ohio. Consultations are free and confidential.
To speak with our Cleveland federal drug crime lawyers during a free consultation, call (216) 220-6776 or contact us online today.
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