The possession, manufacturing and distribution of controlled substances are all illegal under Georgia state statutes. Individuals accused of inappropriate conduct with drugs may face arrest and criminal prosecution.
Frequently, those arrested for a drug offense expect to face charges brought by the state of Georgia. However, there are also federal statutes prohibiting many of the same substances that are illegal or subject to strict controls under Georgia state law. In certain scenarios, individuals could face federal charges instead of state charges for a drug crime. Federal charges often end in a guilty plea, and only a small fraction of federal cases end in acquittal.
What might lead to federal prosecution for a drug-related offense in Georgia?
Investigation or arrest by federal authorities
One of the most important considerations when establishing the jurisdiction for a criminal offense is what law enforcement agencies or regulatory organizations uncovered the misconduct, gathered evidence or arrested someone. An individual swept up in a large-scale enforcement effort by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) might face federal charges. Someone arrested for drugs found in their pockets during a traffic stop might face state charges even though both people may have possessed the same amount of the same drug.
Operations that cross state lines
Location is another key consideration when determining who has jurisdiction to prosecute someone. An individual arrested in Georgia usually faces accusations of violating Georgia laws. However, if they traveled to Georgia from Florida or vice versa while in possession of controlled substances, their actions might constitute interstate trafficking and could lead to federal charges. Particularly when someone travels with a large amount of controlled substances, they could be at risk of federal prosecution.
Involvement in a conspiracy
A drug conspiracy might involve plans to cooperate in the manufacturing or distribution of illicit substances. Those attempting to cooperate with someone to make their income look legitimate could also face accusations of a money laundering conspiracy. Oftentimes, charges involving multiple different parties, especially if they are in different jurisdictions, can lead to federal charges. So can any kind of organized criminal activity that utilizes federal resources, like the postal service or the Federal Reserve.
The dangers of federal drug charges include the risk of being affected by a very serious criminal record and the possibility of a mandatory minimum sentence after a conviction or guilty plea. Understanding what might lead to federal prosecution could help people who are currently worried about a pending investigation or a recent arrest to make more informed choices about their circumstances.