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Federal Crimes

It is a crime to use, possess, manufacture, or distribute certain drugs classified as having a potential for abuse. This can refer to substances such as cocaine, heroin, morphine and amphetamines, among others. Drug offenses also include drug trafficking and the unlawful possession of prescription drugs. Possession, cultivation, transportation or sale of marijuana is also a crime under Federal law, and to a somewhat lesser extent, California law.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or is about to be arrested for a drug offense, call the San Diego Defenders team at (619) 528-8888 before you do anything else. Do not say anything more to the police or attempt to post bail before you speak to us.

Federal & California Laws

California and the federal government have enacted laws against the unlawful use, possession, distribution or production of certain drugs. The law identifies five categories called “schedules,” of drugs based on their potential for dependency and abuse compared with their therapeutic or medicinal value.

The most serious controlled substance category is Schedule I which includes drugs like heroin. These drugs are considered to present the highest potential for dependency with no accepted medical use.

The least serious controlled substance category is Schedule V. These drugs are considered to have a low potential for dependency and have accepted medical uses.

Penalties are harsher for the illegal possession, sale or manufacture of Schedule I drugs than for Schedule V. Below you will find the schedules for California which closely follow the Federal guidelines.

List of Federal Crimes That San Diego Defenders Lawyers Can Help You Beat!

This list includes different federal codes for the drugs such as heroin, cocaine, crack, PCP, LSD, marihuana (marijuana), amphetamine, methamphetamine, listed (precursor) chemicals, paraphernalia, date rape drugs, rave drugs, designer drugs, ecstasy, drug kingpins, as well as the other substances including narcotics and opiates assigned to Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV, and Schedule V of the Controlled Substances Act and the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (Title II and Title III of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Control Act).

Violations of 21 U.S.C. 841 (drug trafficking), 21 U.S.C.841(b)(5) (cultivation on federal property), 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(6) (environmental damage from illegal manufacturing), 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(7) (crime of violence), 21 U.S.C. 841(c) (offenses involving listed chemicals), 21 U.S.C. 841(d) (booby traps on federal lands), 21 U.S.C. 841(f)(distribution/possession of listed chemicals), 21 U.S.C. 841(g) (Internet sales of date rape drugs),21 U.S.C. 841(h) (dispensing controlled substances that are prescription drugs by means of the Internet), 21 U.S.C. 842 (regulatory offenses), 21 U.S.C. 843 (communications-related offenses), 21 U.S.C. 844 (simple possession), 21 U.S.C. 846, 963 (attempt and conspiracy), 21 U.S.C. 849 (drug dealing at truck stops), 21 U.S.C. 848 (continuing criminal enterprises (CCE)), 21 U.S.C.854, 855 (investment of illicit drug profits), 21 U.S.C. 856 (establishing manufacturing operations), 21 U.S.C. 858 (endangering human life), 21 U.S.C. 859 (distribution to infants, minors, children, juveniles, and those under 18 years of age), 21 U.S.C. 860 (distribution in school zones), 21 U.S.C. 861 (distribution to pregnant women), 21 U.S.C. 863 (trafficking in drug paraphernalia), 21 U.S.C. 864 (theft of anhydrous ammonia, or transportation of stolen anhydrous ammonia), 21 U.S.C. 865 (smuggling methamphetamine into the United States), 21 U.S.C. 960 (illicit drug import and export), 21 U.S.C. 960a (narco-terrorism), 21 U.S.C. 962 (recalcitrant drug smugglers), 21 U.S.C. 1906 (financial transactions with designated foreign narcotics traffickers), 18 U.S.C. 545 (smuggling goods into the United States), 18 U.S.C. 546 (smuggling goods into foreign countries), 18 U.S.C. 924(c) (firearms and armor piercing ammunition in connection to drug trafficking crime), 18 U.S.C. 924(e) (armed career criminals), 18 U.S.C. 1952 (Travel Act), 18 U.S.C. 1956 (money laundering), 18 U.S.C. 1957 (monetary transactions in property derived from unlawful activity), 18 U.S.C. 1959 (compensated crime of violence in aid of racketeering), 18 U.S.C. 1963 (racketeering (RICO)), 18 U.S.C. 2118 (robberies and burglaries involving controlled substances), 18 U.S.C. 3559(c) (three strikes), 19 U.S.C. 1590 (aviation smuggling), 26 U.S.C. 7201 (tax evasion), 26 U.S.C. 7203 (failure to file required returns), 26 U.S.C. 7206 (fraud and false statements), 31 U.S.C. 5322 (currency transaction reporting (smurfing)), 31 U.S.C. 5332 (bulk cash smuggling into or out of the United States), 46 U.S.C. 70506 (maritime drug law enforcement).

Punishments for Drug-Related Crimes

The punishment for drug crimes, also called sentencing, generally depends on the following criteria:

  1. The quantity of the drug.
  2. Its classification under the schedules.
  3. The purpose of possession.

The most serious drug crimes are:

  • Manufacturing or making drugs
  • Selling, distributing or “trafficking” in drugs
  • Possessing illegal drugs for the purpose of selling them


Under Federal law, the seriousness of the crime will depend on what drug is involved and how much was possessed. It is a very serious crime to possess large quantities of illegal drugs which may result in lengthy prison sentences and substantial fines. Possession of a small amounts of some drugs for personal use may be punished by fines or other consequences not involving custody. Possession of  large amounts of controlled substances will generally be considered  possession for sale.  Prosecutors will attempt to  prove someone’s intent to distribute drugs just by showing the quantity of the drug, without any other evidence the person ever actually sold or distributed it.

California’s drug laws essentially mirror the federal law when it comes to possession. There are exceptions, however. The penalties are usually more severe in Federal Court.

Jail Time

Whether or not you will face jail time depends on the type (schedule) and quantity of drug involved. Any prior criminal record will be considered as well. Sentencing guidelines also vary greatly between California and Federal law. Some Federal drug offenses can result in life imprisonment.

Enhanced Punishment

California and Federal law impose stiffer punishments or “enhanced penalties” when drug crimes are committed under certain circumstances, such as when:

  1. Minors are used to distribute the drugs
  2. The drugs are delivered or sold to minors
  3. The drugs are sold or distributed near schools

In addition the law calls for the forfeiture of property used in connection with the drug crimes, and any profits from the crime. For example, the government may seize your home or car if it was used to make or distribute drugs.

If you have any additional questions, please contact our San Diego Criminal Lawyer for a free consultation 619-258-8888.

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