Nobody wants to get arrested on drug charges. But the difference between getting charged under Missouri or federal law can make a big difference. Missouri punishes drug crimes severely, but federal drug charges are on a whole other level. A conviction in federal court can mean a long prison sentence and huge fines, even for a nonviolent offense.
Thus, it is important to know when a drug arrest can potentially land you in federal court. Generally speaking, federal charges depend on the amount of drugs you were allegedly caught with — and where the criminal activity supposedly occurred.
Federally scheduled substances
Federal drug laws divide controlled substances into five categories called “schedules.” The lower the schedule number, the higher the risk for abuse and the less medical use, according to the government. Schedule I drugs include heroin, marijuana and LSD. Schedule II includes fentanyl, oxycodone and methamphetamine. Possession of more than a certain weight of each of these substances is a federal crime. The amount is often higher than what is a state-level crime.
Crossing state lines
Another thing that can bump drug charges from state to federal level is location. Crossing state lines with drugs in your possession is a federal offense. So is committing a drug crime on federal land, such as a military base, national park or wildlife refuge. A common example is getting pulled over and arrested coming on I-70 from Colorado with marijuana in the vehicle.
Federal drug charges must be taken very seriously. But with the right legal help and strategy, it often is possible to get the charges reduced or dismissed entirely.