In the legal system of the United States, both state and federal laws govern drug offenses. While states handle a majority of drug crimes, certain circumstances can elevate these offenses to the federal level.
When a drug crime escalates to a federal offense, it usually carries heavier penalties and a more extensive legal process. Learn more about when and why this escalation occurs.
Crossing state lines
A drug crime typically becomes a federal offense when it involves actions crossing state lines. This can include trafficking or distributing drugs across states, using interstate mail services for drug transactions or crossing state lines while in possession of drugs.
Large quantities involved
The higher the quantity of drugs, the more likely it is that federal law enforcement agencies will investigate and prosecute the offense.
Links to organized crime or gangs
Federal authorities have a vested interest in dismantling larger criminal operations, and drug crimes associated with organized crime or gangs often fall under federal jurisdiction.
Use of federal property
Committing a drug crime on federal property, including in national parks and government buildings, automatically makes it a federal offense. Even relatively minor drug crimes can become federal offenses if they occur on federal property.
Impact on the community
Federal authorities may step in if a drug crime has a significant impact on a community, such as a drug manufacturing operation leading to widespread drug addiction in a neighborhood or city.
Understanding the federal government’s role in addressing drug crimes and the severity of these offenses underscores the importance of avoiding illegal drug activities.