Drugs are related to crime in multiple ways. Most directly, it is a crime to use, possess, manufacture, or distribute drugs classified as having a potential for abuse (such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and amphetamines).

Types of Federal Drug Crimes

Federal drug laws pertain to the possession, distribution, sale, trafficking, cultivation, and manufacturing of various controlled substances. These drugs include marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, a number of narcotic-based drugs that much of the public would not think of as being covered by drug crime statutes, such as Oxycodone and Vicodin, and more.

Marijuana Possession and Distribution

Under federal law, the possession of marijuana, in any amount, is punishable by up to one year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 for a first conviction. Further convictions and greater amounts of marijuana result in much stiffer penalties.

The sale of less than 50 kilograms of marijuana (the smallest amount category) is a felony under federal law, punishable by five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Cocaine and Heroin Possession and Distribution

The federal penalties for possession of cocaine and heroin are more severe than those for marijuana, and the penalties for the sale or distribution of these “harder” drugs are can include a life sentence. Several factors are considered when an individual is being charged with a drug crime such as possession or distribution of heroin or cocaine, including the quantity of drug involved (the greater the quantity, the more likelihood that distribution will be imputed to the defendant), the prior criminal history of the defendant, the use or possession of weapons by the defendant, and whether minors were involved.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines — Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Federal Sentencing Guidelines set the penalties for federal drug offenses. The government has imposed mandatory minimum sentences for a drug crime conviction.


Schedule I drugs are those with a high potential for abuse, with an absence of any medical use, that are dangerous to the user even under medical supervision. The more commonly recognized types of these drugs are: heroin, LSD, mescaline, marijuana, and peyote.


Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse and a high potential for severe psychological or physical dependency, but are currently accepted for medical use. Schedule II drugs include opium, cocaine, methadone, amphetamines, and methamphetamines.


Schedule III drugs, by comparison have less potential for abuse than Schedule II drugs, a potential for moderate psychological or physical dependency, and an accepted medical use. The most well known Schedule III drug is naline, which is used to detect narcotic use.


Schedule IV drugs have less potential for abuse than Schedule III drugs, they have a limited potential for dependency, and they are accepted in medical treatment. These drugs include tranquilizers, meprobamate, chloral hydrate, most drugs that cause sleep, and sedatives.


Schedule V drugs, which have a low potential for abuse, limited risk for dependency, and accepted medical uses, include drugs with small amounts of codeine or other narcotics in them.

Drug Possession Penalty

A criminal drug possession penalty may be the result of possessing any controlled substance or unauthorized prescription medication. Controlled substances can include illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroine, methamphetamines, hallucinogens (such as PCP, LSD, and MDMA/ecstasy) and others. A criminal drug possession penalty is often determined by the type of drug that an offender possessed. Possession of drugs that have a higher potential for abuse or those which have the potential to cause injury or death often results in a harsher drug possession penalty.

A drug possession penalty is also determined by the amount of the drug in possession. Drug possession of larger quantities can be charged as drug possession with the intent to distribute the drug, which can result in a much harsher drug possession penalty. Drug possession penalty rulings are much harsher in these cases and can double in cases where an offender distributes drugs to minors. Drug possession penalty convictions are also much harsher when the crime takes place in close proximity to a day care center, school, or university. A person with previous drug offence convictions will also face a stronger drug possession penalty.

A drug possession penalty is ordered through the criminal justice system. About ninety percent of all cases are settled through guilty pleas and less than ten percent of drug possession penalty cases are determined through an actual trial. Many jurisdictions have drug possession penalty mandatory minimums. This means that a drug possession penalty is determined regardless of an offender’s background, character, role in the crime, or threat to society. In recent years, legislature and social groups nationwide have pushed for treatment drug possession penalty options rather than mandatory incarceration drug possession penalty options for offenders of non-violent drug crimes. These have been proven to be more cost efficient and more effective in lowering rates of recidivism.

A drug possession penalty can include fines, jail or prison time, probation, mandatory treatment programs, and the loss of other rights. According to state drug possession penalty statistics, approximately one third of convicts receive prison time, one-third jail time, and another one-third a probation drug possession penalty sentence. The average number of months of incarceration ordered in a drug possession penalty ranges between 30 and 40 months. The average time that is actually served ranges between six and 20 months. The loss of eligibility for federal grants and loans can also be included in a drug possession penalty.


Ultimate punishment for drug crimes generally depends on:

  • The quantity of the drug.
  • Its classification under the schedules.
  • The purpose of its possession.

The most serious drug crimes are:

  • Producing illegal drugs
  • Manufacturing drugs
  • Selling drugs

For example, a person “dealing” (selling) five or more ounces of heroin or cocaine can be jailed for more than 10 years.

Possession of drugs with the intent to distribute them is also a serious crime.

Prosecutors can prove your intent to distribute drugs just by showing the quantity of the drug, without any evidence that you actually distributed the drug.

In most states, possession of drugs for personal use is a serious crime. But in some states, possession of drugs for personal use is punished less severely than distribution crimes. For example, in some states, possession of a small amount of marijuana (less than 50 grams) is decriminalized or treated as a disorderly person’s offense. A person convicted of a disorderly person’s offense is generally not imprisoned, but may be placed on probation or ordered to pay a fine. However, possession of a larger quantity of marijuana or other drug, even if for personal use, is treated as a serious crime.

What If Children Are Present?

An Alliance couple is accused of operating a marijuana grow operation in the home they share with their five children.

Both Mark M. Mueller and his girlfriend, Rebecca S. Brodzenski, both of 747 Garwood St., remain in Stark County Jail each charged with five counts of child endangering, a third-degree felony. Each must post $125,000 cash or surety.

According to the reports, Mueller, 34, cultivated marijuana in the couple’s residence in the presence of the couple’s five children between the ages of 2 and 9. Brodzenski, 27, was charged for her negligence in permitting the act.

Mueller also is being charged with cultivating marijuana, a fourth-degree felony. According to Detective Sgt. David Bair, the amount of marijuana being grown in the home was in excess of 300 grams.

Mueller has a past conviction in 2007 for receiving stolen property, a fifth-degree felony, and most recently in 2008 for theft.

Brodzenski has no priors in Stark County, except for traffic violations.

If convicted, each faces up to 25 years in prison and $50,000 in fines.

Child Endangerment??

What are Child Endangerment Laws?

Child Endangerment laws make it a crime to endanger the health or life of a child through an adult’s recklessness or indifference.  Some states include child endangerment offenses in existing child abuse statutes.  Other states made child endangerment a separate offense.

What are Examples of Child Endangerment?
The states differ as to what constitutes child endangerment, but some common examples include:

  • Leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle
  • Driving while intoxicated with a child in the motor vehicle
  • Hiring a person with a known history of sexual offenses as a childcare provider
  • Serving alcohol to an underage driver
  • Leaving a young child unsupervised or in the care of another young child
  • Unreasonable corporal punishment resulting in bodily injury
  • Drug manufacturing in the presence of a child
  • Leaving a young child unsupervised in an unsafe area
  • Failure to report suspected child abuse

What are the Penalties for Endangering a Child?
The penalties for endangering a child vary from state to state but can be very severe:

  • California: Imprisonment for up to 6 years
  • Illinois: Imprisonment for up to 10 years
  • New York: Imprisonment for up to 1 year
  • Texas: Imprisonment for up to 20 years