People accused of crimes do not generally get to choose where they face charges. The location of the crime and jurisdiction rules will determine what courts host their trials. Although Texas does have a reputation for being somewhat harsh toward drug offenders, people generally feel less concerned about state drug charges than federal drug charges.
The average person arrested while in possession of a controlled or prohibited substance in Texas likely anticipates facing state prosecution for any charges that they face. However, drug offenses so sometimes lead to federal charges against the people involved. One seemingly-innocent complicating factor often plays a role in someone’s case going through federal court rather than state criminal court.
Someone crosses state or international boundaries
Although someone may not think much of making a weekend trip over the border to Mexico, items they bring with them or back after the trip could put them at risk of federal charges. Similarly, those planning a road trip with friends or a business trip to an adjacent state might not bother removing certain items from their vehicle which could lead to accusations of crossing state lines with contraband.
Those who cross international or state boundary lines while in possession of prohibited substances or in the commission of a drug-related defense could very easily trigger federal prosecution for what may otherwise be a simple state charge. There is an intense focus on the Texas-Mexico border in particular, with state lawmakers looking to intensify enforcement efforts in the area.
Federal prosecution opens people up to numerous risks
Facing federal drug charges is a much more intimidating prospect than the possibility of facing state charges for several reasons. A federal criminal record will limit someone’s opportunities far more than a state record.
Anyone accused of a crime in federal court might end up facing harsh mandatory minimums for their sentencing if they plead guilty or get convicted. Additionally, when a drug crime prosecuted federally involves a sense of incarceration, an individual could potentially end up serving their sentence so far from home that their loved ones have a very difficult time visiting them.
Learning more about the minor mistakes that can lead to severe criminal penalties can help residents in Texas better avoid and respond to criminal charges.