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Federal vs. state drug crimes: charges and sentencing

On Behalf of | May 17, 2023 | Firm News

Texas and the U.S. government have different systems for categorizing drugs, even though many of them overlap. In some cases, the state prosecutes cases and in others, the federal government prosecutes them. In other cases, state and federal authorities work together.

Federal drug laws

The federal government separates drugs into the following groups:

  1. Schedule I
  2. Schedule II
  3. Schedule III
  4. Schedule IV
  5. Schedule V

Each of these groups contains several drugs. The most common drugs in the government’s schedules are listed below. This list is not exclusive.

  1. Schedule I: Marijuana, Ecstasy, LSD, Mushrooms, Heroin, Peyote.
  2. Schedule II: Cocaine, Opium, Methadone, Percocet, Oxycontin and Morphine, among others.
  3. Schedule III: Vicodin, Codeine, Ketamine and Anabolic steroids, among others.
  4. Schedule IV: Valium, Xanax, Darvocet, Darvon.
  5. Schedule V: Certain cough suppressants containing codeine and anti-diarrheal medications.

Drugs on lower schedules usually carry lighter sentences, drugs on higher schedules usually carry higher sentences. This comes into play when charging an individual with a crime and during sentencing.

When are drugs prosecuted in federal court?

In brief, since federal and state laws overlap, there are no specific rules on who charges whom. However, state courts hear most drug crime charges, absent certain exceptions, including:

  • Involvement by state and federal authorities in the crime
  • The individual charged with the drug crime crossed state lines.
  • Federal authorities made the arrest or the arrest occurred on federal property.
  • The drug charges are extremely severe.

Whether the state or the federal government gets involved depends on a variety of factors. Usually, the most severe crimes end up in federal court. This is important because if an an individual is charged and tried by federal authorities, they usually face much harsher penalties than they would in state court.