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Drugs crises: Triggers for increased federal, state prosecutions

Few can be unaware of the drug crises in the United States. Just this week, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation issued an alert about the fact that methamphetamine-related deaths rose 40 percent from 2016 to 2017. This news comes even as headlines across the country continue to herald how opioid overdose deaths remain a significant cause for alarm.

No one is claiming the issue is overblown. However, even as we acknowledge the problem, there is a great deal of difference of opinion about what the proper government response should be. One position that has a lot of political appeal is the "get tough" approach. Another is to be tough, but acknowledge the need for treatment, the disease of addiction often being the motivating force behind drug crimes.

Regardless of philosophy, the reality is that the drug overdose deaths crisis is prompting more aggressive prosecutions at both the federal and state levels. According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the spike in deaths led his agency to triple federal prosecutions in 2017 just for crimes involving the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

That response is certainly understandable. It raises the risk, though, that prosecutors, unleashed and driven to present a strong face to the public, may become overzealous. Individuals who might not have been charged previously, and might not deserve charging now, face that possibility. How individual defendants respond to investigation and being charged can be as crucial to achieving an optimal outcome as anything else.

Federal charges can run the gamut from possession with intent to distribute, to transporting, to conspiracy. Considering the severe consequences possible under federal sentencing guidelines for a conviction of any of the possible charges, one should not face the situation alone. To protect your rights, consult an attorney.

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