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When drug charges land you in federal court

If you face allegations of drug crimes such as possession or trafficking, you may wonder whether you will end up in state or federal court and what the difference is between the two.

Florida and federal laws prohibit various types of drug offenses. In fact, a person accused of drug crimes can face both state and federal charges based on the same actions.

Ways to end up in federal court on drug charges

Generally, someone arrested on drug charges in Florida is often processed through the state system. However, some factors make federal charges likely.

If you were arrested based on information from a federal informant, by a federal officer or on federal land, you can expect federal charges. Federal land can include properties such as military bases and national parks. In any case, when federal resources become involved in your arrest, your charges will likely go to federal court.

Another area that invokes federal jurisdiction is that of crimes involving crossing a state or national border. Drug trafficking that includes transportation of drugs across state lines likely qualifies. In some cases, if drugs were not transported but relevant communications, such as phone calls or text messages, did cross state lines, federal charges may still apply.

Finally, federal law provides a catch-all that can invoke federal charges in a variety of situations. Common scenarios include the state asking for assistance or working with federal agencies due to a lack of resources or other reasons. Even someone with a low-level offense can become swept up in a larger crackdown. Federal prosecutors can file charges against a low-level offender with the goal of finding and implicating criminal organization leaders. 

Why it makes a difference

Federal sentencing guidelines often impose substantially harsher penalties than state guidelines for the same offense. In addition, federal procedure tends to be more complex and harder to navigate. If you face federal charges, it is important to consult an attorney with experience in this area, which can differ from state drug charges in several important aspects.

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