Drug Possession Charges Facts: How Specialized Drug Courts Rehabilitate Drug Offenders
People who are convicted of drug possession charges know that they are facing a whole range of penalties and sentences, which can be different from every state. The penalties can vary from simple charges which have a fine of $100 with a few days in jails to thousands of dollars with several years of jail time in the state prison.
Sentences for simple drug charges are the lightest in terms of penalties. Charges involving the distribution of drugs or the manufacturing of illegal substances carry a harsher penalty. There are times when the prosecutor will offer a plea deal to the defendant who might be able to aid them in a higher-priority case or investigation. If a defendant can help the prosecution to the arrest of an organized crime leader, a plea deal can be offered to the defense.
Getting Legal Help
Penalties for drug possession may vary depending on the jurisdiction and factors in the case. Defendants are encouraged to work with a reliable drug defense attorney to help the case have a better chance of getting dropped or receive a lenient sentence.
State vs Federal Drug Possession Charges and Penalties
Federal lawmakers have enacted mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines that govern drug offenses in 1986. The enactment was an attempt by lawmakers to allow law enforcers to target high-level distributors and crime ring leaders, although the case on the big crime leaders can impact the lower-level drug defendants.
Most states have similar approaches when it comes to drug sentencing. The fixed types of sentences are dependent on the weight of the drug, type of the drug, and the number of the defendant’s prior convictions. An example is with the state of Kentucky which adopted the similar mandatory minimum sentencing yet it is one of the states with the toughest provisions on drug possession charges. A simple possession charge in Kentucky would lead first-time offenders to be sentenced with two to 10 years in prison with a fine that reaches up to $20,000. On the other hand, California has some of the most lenient sentences for drug possession sentences with jail time of 15 to 180 days and fine from $30 to $500.
Specialized Drug Courts
Multiple states instituted drug courts that have programs focused on felony drug defendants which are overseen by the judge. The aim is to rehabilitate the defendant and the repeat offenders instead of filing charges to take it to a court trial. Judges have substantial control over the operations of the drug courts. If a defendant agrees to go to a drug court would sign up to 12 to 15 months of treatment sessions and random drug tests. The defendant would often appear before the drug court judge regularly. Defendants who have agreed to the “drug court procedures” but failed to appear in court or tested positive for drugs during the process would be arrested and given short jail time.
Other Variables That Can Influence Drug Possession Penalties
Aside from the mandated minimum sentences, there are other variables that influence the penalties and sentences of a defendant. When the court is preparing the sentence, the judge would look at certain mitigating or aggravating factors such as the defendant’s past records, including the type of drug in which the case revolves around.
Many states would double the sentence for convictions if the incident happened near a school. It is considered an aggravating factor in the case. The conviction can be lessened if the person who is helping an abusive partner with the drug trade operation. The defendant might be given a lesser charge with the abuse presenting a mitigating factor in court.
State Drug Possession Laws
The federal government has a wide power in enforcing drug laws but the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is focused on larger operations and interstate drug trafficking. Drug possession charges are often and largely worked on by the states with their own sentencing guidelines.
State Marijuana Laws
Marijuana possession laws went through many changes as many states have legalized marijuana and decriminalizing possession. States with legalized marijuana still have restrictions in place, such as having a certain small amount. If a person handles more than an ounce of the substance, they can be subjected to fines. In Colorado, having marijuana for over 2 ounces will be subjected to misdemeanor charges. If the person possesses more than 12 ounces then he or she can be subjected to a felony.