Over the years, many drugs have been used to induce numbness, create energy, or boost confidence. Although some of the effects of drugs may seem tempting, there may be high prices to pay for abuse. Health complications, such as brain, joint, and muscle problems, as well as mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, are common among people who abuse drugs.
However, legal issues can also arise due to the different classifications of illegal drugs. If someone is caught ingesting, buying, selling, or making drugs, they may face penalties, such as jail time, fines, or compulsory treatment. Many factors influence the nature of the sentence, including the amount of substance seized, the location of the arrest, and whether other crimes have been committed.
Below we will explore what goes into a drug sentence and the penalties one may face.
Which drugs are illegal and how are they classified?
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has five drug lists, each with its own level of legality based on the risk of addiction and their effectiveness for medical purposes.
The five schedules are:
- Annex I: These drugs have no medical use and have a high potential for abuse. Some of the most common Schedule I drugs are heroin, LSD, marijuana, and ecstasy.
- Annex II: These substances are considered dangerous for their high risk of physical and psychological dependence, leading to addiction. Some Schedule II drugs are cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone and fentanyl. These drugs are sometimes used for medical purposes.
- Annex III: These drugs have a low to moderate risk of abuse, but can still be addictive. Some of these drugs are ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone.
- Annex IV: These substances have a low risk of increasing addiction. Some medications include Xanax, Valium, Ambien, and Tramadol.
- Annex V: These drugs are usually low dose combinations of previously classified substances and other harmless substances.
What is the average sentence for a drug-related arrest?
Depending on where the drug arrest took place, a state government or federal institution will handle the prosecution and sentencing.
If a drug-related arrest is limited to one state, the onus is on the state to try the accused in court and issue a penalty. Some states are known for their low drug burden, such as California, Washington, and Oregon. Oregon has made personal possession of hard drugs, such as methamphetamine and heroin, a misdemeanor charge usually punishable by a small fine.
Other states take a tougher stance on drugs. For example, being caught with marijuana twice in Louisiana can mean 20 years in prison. In Oklahoma, a judge can sentence someone to life imprisonment for growing marijuana.
When a crime crosses state lines and involves federal institutions, such as the FBI or DEA, a person will most likely be tried under the federal laws of the state. There are laws for distribution amounts and personal amounts.
Some federal law penalties are:
- A first drug arrest with 100 to 999 grams of an illegal substance can result in no less than five years and no more than 40 years in prison. In case of death or serious injury, not less than 20 years. Fines between $1 million and $5 million can be expected.
- A repeat offender can expect no less than 10 years and no more than life imprisonment. If there is serious injury or death, this constitutes a life sentence. Fines can range from $4 million to $10 million.
- For amounts less than 30 mg, a first-time offender can expect no more than a year in jail and a $100,000 fine. If this is your second offence, no more than two years and a $200,000 fine.
What other sentences are used for drug arrests?
In light of the recent change in drug policy, some states and judges are trying alternative sentences in conviction cases. These alternatives are meant to help people recover from addiction while helping others.
Meetings in 12 steps
The 12-Step Meetings are meant to bring people together to share stories of strength, hope, and recovery while working together to stay sober. Some judges may require a defendant to attend a certain number of 12-step meetings.
In cases where only personal possession has taken place, some judges decide to send people to rehabilitation centers. This is called drug court, which is specifically dedicated to handling cases with people who have substance use disorders. During treatment, patients participate in group therapy, talk therapy, and holistic activities to recover from addiction. Hopefully, these practices act as stepping stones to a drug-free life, rather than jail time, which can increase a person’s risk of recidivism.