Federal and CO State Drug Charges: Know the Difference

Drug crime laws at the state and federal level can differ quite a bit. However, there are a lot of places where these two sets of laws overlap, particularly when it comes to the sale and manufacture of controlled substances like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and ecstasy.

However, most crimes fall under the jurisdiction of the state government or the federal government – not typically both. In Colorado, like in many other states, drug crimes such as drug possession and drug distribution are targeted, and federal prosecutors usually take on the larger scale drug crimes such as drug trafficking or manufacturing.

Of course, there are other factors that play a role in drug crimes and whether or not these crimes get prosecuted at the state or federal level. If you’re facing drug charges, it’s to your advantage to understand the differences between the state and federal court systems to help you understand how your case may move forward.

The Classification of Drugs in Colorado Springs

Controlled substances are considered substances that have their distribution governed by state or federal laws. They get divided into five categories, known as schedules, based on a few aspects of the substance in question. Two of the biggest factors include whether it has a potential for abuse or addiction or if there are any accepted medical uses.

Drugs on Schedule I have no accepted medical use and a high risk of abuse, while drugs on Schedule V have a low likelihood of addiction and widely accepted medical uses.

Some examples of the Schedules and the drugs found on them include:

Schedule I

Heroin and LSD are on this Schedule. The federal government also includes marijuana on this Schedule, but in Colorado, marijuana is not found here.

Schedule II

PCP, morphine, and cocaine are on this Schedule.

Schedule III

Codeine, barbiturates, anabolic steroids, and hydrocodone are all Schedule III substances.

Schedule IV

Benzodiazepines such as Xanax and Valium are here.

Schedule V

Cough medicines that can be purchased over the counter with small amounts of codeine are on this schedule.

How Similar Do Colorado and the Federal Government View Drug Crimes

Colorado is a special state when it comes to drug crimes. That’s because many small quantities of controlled substances have been decriminalized over the past several years.

Instead, our state has opted to get people to help for drug abuse issues instead of penalizing them with time in prison. This isn’t the only way Colorado differs from the federal government regarding its view of controlled substances, either.

As many people likely know, marijuana is legal to possess in specific amounts under the law in the state, but it continues to be illegal under federal law. Also, Colorado considers drug paraphernalia possession to be a petty offense, while typically, this isn’t a charge the federal government pursues. Additionally, possessing substances such as heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine is illegal under federal and Colorado state law, but the penalties associated with each are quite different.

The bottom line is that the amount of drugs involved in a case and the type of drug informs charges at the federal and state levels. In many cases, federal authorities are more likely to pursue a case for drugs considered more serious and addictive.

How Do Penalties Differ in CO?

While Colorado may have more progressive controlled substance laws than the federal government, you can still be sent to prison for a very long time in certain situations in the state – just as you can at the Federal level.

If the federal government convicts a person for drug distribution, they can ask for life in prison in some situations. If trafficking gets charged, life sentences can be part of the potential consequences. Additionally, the fines assessed by the federal government are much higher, often reaching $250,000 – if not more.

How Will Your Colorado Springs Drug Charge Be Prosecuted?

Local police handle most drug arrests, but the truth is that the state or the federal government can prosecute your case no matter who arrests you because drugs are illegal on both the state and Federal levels.

Typically, large quantities of drugs will catch the eye of the federal government, and if you cross state lines in the commission of your crime, you may be exposing yourself to prosecution by them as well.

If you’re facing drug charges, you need a defense attorney with knowledge of Colorado drug crime laws and federal drug crimes.


About the Author:

Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.