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Understanding Federal Drug Crimes

While some drug crimes fall under state laws and penalties, federal courts prosecute more serious drug offenses. For example, trafficking large amounts of a drug often results in federal charges.

Learn more about the types of federal controlled substance crimes and potential legal consequences for conviction.

Trafficking controlled substances

The penalties for federal drug trafficking depend on the type of substance and the amount, along with other circumstances of the case. For example, you may be subject to increased penalties for selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a college or university. The first offense carries five to 40 years and prison and a fine of up to $5 million for:

  • 500 to 4,900 grams of cocaine
  • 40 to 399 grams of fentanyl
  • 100 to 999 grams of heroin
  • 1 to 9 grams of LSD
  • 5 to 49 grams of methamphetamine
  • 10 to 99 grams of PCP

For the larger amounts below, conviction can result in 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million for the first offense:

  • More than 5 kilograms of cocaine
  • More than 400 grams of fentanyl
  • More than 1 kilogram of heroin
  • More than 10 grams of LSD
  • More than 50 grams of methamphetamine
  • More than 100 grams of PCP

Trafficking drug paraphernalia

Importing, exporting, shipping or selling items specifically for substance use, manufacture or trafficking results in federal charges. Offenders can receive up to three years in prison as well as a substantial fine.

An offender who receives a federal prison sentence of more than a year for a drug crime must forfeit all property associated with the crime, including cash, belongings, vehicles and real estate. In addition, individuals may be ineligible for federal benefits such as student loans, professional licenses and contracts. This penalty can last up to five years for the first conviction, 10 years for a second conviction and forever for a subsequent conviction.

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