Both North Carolina and the federal government have laws against the manufacture, distribution and possession of controlled substances, such as narcotics, methamphetamine and prescription drugs. As a result, state and federal law enforcement agencies have the power to conduct drug crime investigations. Federal charges typically raise the stakes for a defendant due to the stiff penalties that accompany federal convictions.
Federal drug schedules
Penalties largely reflect the severity that the federal government assigns to certain substances. The Controlled Substances Act designated five schedules for drugs with Schedule I being labeled the most dangerous and Schedule V being the least harmful. The potential for abuse and medicinal use or lack thereof determine the threat posed by a substance. Where a substance falls on the schedule plays a role in the length of a prison sentence.
North Carolina follows a similar system for classifying drugs. The perceived danger of a controlled substance influences the length of prison terms and other penalties.
Differences in federal and state drug enforcement
Another reason federal drug charges often threaten defendants with harsher penalties involves the type of drug crime investigated. In general, federal investigators pursue drug traffickers because they want to attack distribution organizations. State agencies, in contrast, tend to handle cases related to drug possession.
Both types of charges place you in jeopardy
Although federal drug charges present a more serious matter than state drug charges, conviction at either level could disrupt your life significantly. The representation of an attorney may prepare you to defend your reputation in court. Drug investigations sometimes rely on informants and eyewitnesses whose testimony could be vulnerable to attack when questioned by your defense attorney.