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When do Drug Charges Become Federal?

December 05, 2019

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Recently a Pennsylvania woman was sentenced to 77 months to be served in a United States federal prison for selling heroin. She was first arrested in June of 2016, along with two men. She was arrested again in September of 2016, that time with another woman.

The woman’s sentence came after pleading guilty to one count of “Conspiracy to Distribute Heroin,” and one count of “Distribution of Heroin in Proximity of a Protected Location.” She was selling heroin near Emmanuel Christian School in Clarksburg and is now serving time in federal prison. So, when do drug charges become federal charges? There are several instances when this can happen.

Federal Resources were Involved in Your Arrest

If you were arrested by the FBI or the DEA, you’ll likely face federal charges. If an informant working with these agencies, or any other federal government agency, named you, federal charges are likely going to be brought. Lastly, if the alleged crime occurred on federal property, the charges automatically become federal. The woman in the recent story was charged with distributing heroin near a school, which is federally-protected property, so those charges were considered federal.

The Alleged Crime Involved Crossing Borders

If an alleged drug crime involves crossing borders, whether those are federal or state, it automatically becomes a federal crime. For example, if someone moved drugs from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, that would be considered a federal crime. Additionally, if someone brought drugs into the United States from another country, they would also face federal prosecution.

Federal Authorities Take Over

Sometimes, there is no specific aspect of a drug crime that makes it a federal crime. For example, someone in Pennsylvania could have sold their neighbor drugs without crossing borders and without involving federal resources. In these cases, federal prosecutors can still step in and take the case if they choose. Sometimes they do this because they are trying to crack down on crime in a specific area. In other instances, the state may not have the resources to investigate and prosecute the crime, so they may ask federal prosecutors to step in. For various reasons, state and federal prosecutors may just simply agree to give federal agencies jurisdiction.

Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorneys can Help with Your Drug Charges

If you’ve been charged with a drug crime, it’s important you speak to an Allentown criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. This is a scary time but at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we know there are defenses to these charges. We will use these to dismantle the prosecution’s case and give you your best chance at retaining your freedom. Being charged with a drug crime is very scary, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online for your free consultation so we can get started on your case.



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