What Are the Differences Between Federal and State Drug Charges?

 Posted on February 05,2021 in Drug Crimes

San Antonio drug crimes defense attorneyIn Texas, for the most part, state drug charges signify severe penalties, more so than many other states. In some cases, the penalties can be steeper than those for federal drug charges. Since drug charges are common in criminal defense—and you never know when you or someone you care about might need to hire a criminal defense attorney to assist with such charges, it is worth knowing the differences between the state drug charges in Texas and federal drug charges. Essentially, there are three main differences between state drug charges and federal drug charges:

  1. Drug Classifications
  2. Methods of Prosecution
  3. Penalties/Punishments for Convictions

Drug Classifications and Their Associated Penalties

Texas law categorizes drugs differently than the federal government does. Inherent in both their classifications and definitions of drug types are the associated penalties and punishments. With regards to classifications, the federal government organizes drugs according to “schedule” types:

  • Schedule I, including marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, and LSD
  • Schedule II, including cocaine, Ritalin, opium, morphine, PCP, methamphetamine, and oxycontin
  • Schedule III, including ketamine, codeine, and Vicodin
  • Schedule IV, including Xanax and valium
  • Schedule V, including some OTC drugs and other similar prescribed drugs containing prohibited contents such as codeine

For Texas, on the other hand, drugs are organized into six “drug penalty groups.” These groups are:

  • Group 1 (opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc.)
  • Group 1A (LSD and other LSD-related components)
  • Group 2 (PCP, ecstasy, etc.)
  • Group 2A (synthetic drugs meant to replicate marijuana’s effects on the brain)
  • Group 3 (stimulants, benzodiazepines, anti-anxiety medications, etc.)
  • Group 4 (other prescription drugs)

While the federal government includes marijuana in its Schedule I drugs list, the Texas illegal drug code does not address it since marijuana receives much lighter sentences and is overall becoming more accepted throughout the state. 

Overall, based on which classification each drug is assigned, the charges will be comparably light or severe, even between the federal code and the state code for Texas. In that sense, other than the differing category names and some different classifications, Texas drug charges and federal drug charges are not very different with that exception of marijuana.

Methods of Prosecution

Where things get particularly interesting with regards to the differences between state drug charges and federal drug charges is how they are prosecuted. While it is true that for the most part, local law enforcement handles most drug cases, there are instances when the federal government is obligated to intervene. For instance:

  • The drug charges are so significant or involve such an important person or group of interest that the federal government needs to provide the prosecution. For example, if the accused might have ties to a drug cartel or other major figure in drug trafficking that the federal government is looking to prosecute, then they will be quick to take the reins.
  • The illegal drugs were carried across state lines, requiring the mediation of the federal government.
  • If the seizure of drugs is particularly large and the arrests were made by federal agents, then it will probably be a federal case.

Contact a San Antonio Texas Drug Crimes Defense Attorney

When facing drug charges at the federal or state level, you will need the assistance of a knowledgeable San Antonio criminal defense lawyer who can sift through evidence and testimony to find a winning strategy for you. Contact the Law Offices of Sam H. Lock at 210-226-0965 to schedule initial consultation on your potential drug charge case.







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San Antonio, Texas 78210