Differences Between State and Federal Drug Crimes in Maine

Differences Between State and Federal Drug Crimes in Maine

Any criminal charge for a drug-related offense is a serious matter in Maine,but how consequential the outcomes can get may depend on whether the charge is filed at the state or federal level.

A drug crime conviction may lead to a permanent criminal record, in addition to a potential prison sentence and a hefty fine. The sentence applied will depend on the jurisdiction handling the prosecution. Federal prosecutions of drug crimes tend to lead to notoriously harsh outcomes.

If you’ve been charged with a drug crime in Maine, it’s important to understand the jurisdiction (state or federal) that is handling your case, how the law varies between jurisdictions, and what the potential consequences could be now and in the future.

What are the main types of drug crimes in Maine?

Drug crimes are outlined in Maine’s statutes as well as the U.S. Criminal Code. The statutes prohibit the manufacture, possession, and dispensing of any controlled substance.

What are considered controlled substances?

Controlled substances are illegal drugs that can harm an individual’s health and welfare. They range from recreational drugs deemed to have no medical benefit, to prescription drugs and other substances that are used to create drugs that can be harmful to users.

Most commonly, drug crimes in the U.S. involve controlled substances like marijuana (which is still illegal at the federal level despite being decriminalized in Maine), as well as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, etc. However, there are other controlled substances that do lead to drug charges for manufacture, possession or trafficking/distribution.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is responsible for designating controlled substance status and classifying the drugs into a series of five “schedules” or categories. Schedule I drug crimes carry the most severe penalties, while crimes associated with Schedule V substances carry the least severe penalties.

Schedule I drugs are deemed to have no accepted medical use and many of them are highly addictive. Drugs listed in the other schedules may have accepted usages and be less addictive.

What is considered drug trafficking in Maine?

Drug trafficking or distribution is the act of furnishing another party with unlawful drugs. The crime has two primary categories: “unlawful trafficking” and “aggravated unlawful trafficking.”

If aggravating factors are present, the more serious charge of aggravated unlawful trafficking will apply. Aggravating factors may include:

  • Trafficking drugs while with a minor
  • Prior convictions for unlawful trafficking
  • Carrying a firearm at the time of the offense
  • Trafficking near a “safe zone”
  • Enlisting the assistance of a minor to traffic drugs

To be charged with a drug trafficking crime, an individual or group of individuals must be accused of doing any of the following:

  • Making an illegal sale of a controlled substance
  • Supplying a controlled substance
  • Delivering a controlled substance

Trafficking charges are most commonly proved by showing that an individual sold drugs but the exchange of money is not technically required to convict a person of trafficking,

What is drug manufacturing in Maine?

Under Maine law, the manufacture of scheduled drugs is considered a form of trafficking. Manufacturing is defined is as follows:

“To produce, prepare, propagate, compound, convert or process, either directly or indirectly by extraction from substances of natural origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis.”

Both state laws and federal laws criminalize the chemical manufacture of drugs such as methamphetamine. Under federal law, growing marijuana is also categorized as manufacturing.

What’s the difference between state and federal drug charges/crimes?

Generally speaking, the decision whether to prosecute a drug crime at the state or federal level depends on three main factors:

  1. The quantity of unlawful drugs involved
  2. The number of individuals involved in the activity
  3. Whether the activity crossed state lines

Even with Maine following many other states in legalizing the possession of marijuana, any activity that involves marijuana possession could still be prosecuted federally.

However, in reality, anyone who follows state law is highly unlikely to be prosecuted in a federal court.

State vs. federal drug crimes and charges

Most federal drug crimes involve a large quantity of drugs and a large-scale trafficking conspiracy, such as the types of operations run by criminal gangs.

If these factors are absent, the case will often proceed in the state courts rather than in a federal court. State courts only have the jurisdiction to handle cases within the state’s territorial boundaries. Most cases that proceed at the state level in Maine involve the possession of controlled substances and are prosecuted as misdemeanor offenses. The local law enforcement departments press charges and the local state prosecutor will decide how to proceed.

If a case crosses into another state, federal prosecutors are more likely to intervene. Federal courts also have jurisdiction over crimes committed on federal property. Therefore, anyone who uses a federal agency (such as US Mail) to aid criminal activity may be the subject of a federal investigation. Agencies such as the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will handle these investigations.

Most arrests for drug crimes in Maine that end up in the federal courts are for drug trafficking. These are felony charges that are filed by federal prosecutors (the U.S. Attorney’s Office) and the convictions that come with them carry much more serious punishments, including mandatory minimum prison sentences.

Drug crimes, whether charged at the state or federal level, are not to be taken lightly. Serious, life-changing penalties can result. It’s essential to seek legal advice from a knowledgeable attorney who is experienced in defending drug charges.

For experienced legal help with any drug crime, call the Maine Criminal Defense Group at 207-571-8146 for an initial case evaluation.

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