While there are no “good” drug charges, typically those pursued under state law do not carry the same penalties and repercussions of federal charges. That’s why it is crucial that if you’ve been charged with a drug offense, especially a federal one, you have an experienced Honolulu drug lawyer. Attorney Michael Fayard has extensive experience defending clients charged with both state and federal drug crimes and getting the best outcomes possible.

Call (808) 445-6708 to schedule a free initial consultation. Don’t delay. The quicker we start building your defense, the faster you can start putting this trouble behind you.

Important Differences Between Federal and State Drug Charges

It is illegal to possess, manufacture, or sell drugs (also called “controlled substances”) under both federal and Hawaii state laws. Controlled substances covered by such laws include everything from marijuana to opioids and heroin. If the same conduct is covered by both jurisdictions, what are the differences between the two?

Drug Charges

Under Hawaii law, drug charges are dependent on the kind of drug and the activity. Drugs are classified under five schedules (classes) with Schedule 1 being the most serious, such as heroin, and Schedule V the least severe, including some dosages of codeine. While the state can charge someone with possession, trafficking, or both, often the more serious charge, trafficking, will come from the feds.

Common federal charges include possession, possession with intent to distribute, growing or making controlled substances, trafficking, conspiracy, and criminal enterprise, which is used to prosecute large-scale drug operations, like cartels. But the Feds tend to get involved when drugs are mailed across state lines.

Federal drug charges will also likely result when there has been interstate criminal activity, such as the transportation of illegal drugs across state borders. In addition, if a drug-related crime happens on federal land, such as in a national park, the charges will likely be federal. Federal drug charges can arise, too, if the U.S. postal service has been used in the commission of the drug crime.

Note that you will be either charged with federal drug crimes, or those under state law. You cannot be charged with both.

Drug Conviction Penalties

State drug charges are often reserved for less serious offenses and generally carry less severe penalties. State charges can be classified as misdemeanor of felony, which is one factor in determining a penalty. Others include that schedule it is and if it was possession or trafficking. No matter what, incarceration for state charges is usually less than that for federal drug crimes.

Many federal drug crimes have sentencing guidelines that could increase sentencing by two to three times. Even first-time offenders of federal drug law can end up with lengthy prison sentence. The feds could also partner with other agencies like the IRS and add on charges related to tax evasion related to drug income.

State vs. Federal Jurisdiction

If charged with a state drug crime, your case is pursued and investigated by state officers and prosecutors. That means the crime occurred within the state boundaries and within a local jurisdiction, such as a specific island or county. State and local officials cannot go outside of their boundaries (i.e., their jurisdictions). Federal investigators, however, are not confined to those boundaries. They can investigate in any state where they believe criminal activity occurred, especially when interstate commerce is involved.

The “jurisdiction” issue is important as well to determine what law applies. If you are charged with a drug crime under state law, your case will be decided by a state court using state statutes and court rules. The same applies if you are charged under federal law. Your case will be in federal court and subject to federal law and rules of procedure for trials and evidence.

We Can Help with Federal or State Drug Charges

Attorney Michael Fayard has extensive experience helping defendants with all kinds of drug cases, in both state and federal court. All drug charges can lead to serious consequences, but federal cases especially so as the penalties can be severe if convicted. You need the best defense possible and we can help.

Schedule your free consultation today by calling (808) 445-6708.