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Will a drug charge go to state or federal court?

There are many differences between the outcome of a federal drug case and a state one. Perhaps the most significant is that a federal conviction will lead to a longer prison sentence. For example, a conviction in federal court for heroin possession is at least five years. 

You are much better off going to state court for a drug crime than a federal court. A conviction in federal court guarantees the crime will go down as a felony on your record. Under certain circumstances in state court, such as possession of a few grams of marijuana, it is possible you will only receive a misdemeanor, especially for a first offense. Certain conditions must be present for a drug crime in Florida to go to federal court.

Your arrest involved a federal officer or federal resources

When a state trooper arrests you for drug possession, then your case will go to state court. However, if an agent of the FBI arrested you, regardless of the reason, then the case falls under the federal government’s jurisdiction. Additionally, if the arrest took place on federal property, such as a national park or military base, then the drug crime would end up in federal court. 

Catch-all category

It is possible for agents of the federal government to request jurisdiction for a specific drug case for a litany of reasons. For example, an agent from the FBI may believe one individual’s arrest and cooperation could lead to capturing a higher-level criminal. A federal court may also take up a case if the local court lacks the necessary resources to prosecute. 

The crime involved crossing state lines

The smuggling of drugs into the United States automatically becomes a federal crime. However, citizens of the country can also go to federal court if they transport illegal drugs across state lines. This constitutes “drug trafficking” instead of simple “possession.” 

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