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In the United States, there are two kinds of laws – state laws and federal laws. As a result, there are state-level crimes and federal crimes. There are also state courts and federal courts. When someone violates a state law, the case will be handled by a state court and when a federal law is violated, it will be handled in federal court.

Sometimes a crime violates both state and federal law. In this case, the defendant can be tried in state court or federal court. Often, it comes down to the magnitude of the crime and what the state and federal prosecutors decide.

State laws are passed by state legislators, whereas federal laws are passed by Congress. States establish state criminal courts in cities and counties to prosecute violations of state law. In contrast, the federal courts are established under the U.S. Constitution and instead of deciding on state-level offenses, they strictly handle federal prosecutions involving violations of laws contained in the Constitution and passed by Congress.


Drug trafficking is a state and federal crime, which carries severe consequences for offenders. A charge of drug trafficking may include the manufacturing, delivery, and sale of anything deemed a “controlled substance.” Drug trafficking laws can be highly complex, depending on which controlled substances and how much of them are involved in any given case. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) divides controlled substances into 5 schedules, based on the danger and effects of various drugs. As the schedules of these drugs vary, so do the penalties attached to them.

Federal Drug Trafficking Scheduling and Penalties

Federal drug scheduling breaks down controlled substances into the following categories:

  • Schedule I Substances: Schedule I drugs are considered dangerous substances with no widely accepted medical use and high potential for abuse. Under federal U.S. law, this includes drugs such as heroin, LSD, ecstasy, PCP, methaqualone (or Quaaludes,) peyote, and marijuana.
  • Schedule II Substances: Schedule II drugs are considered dangerous substances with high potential for abuse and which have a high chance of causing psychological and/or physical dependence. Under U.S. law, this includes drugs such as Vicodin, cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, Dilaudid, Demerol, OxyContin, fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin.
  • Schedule III Substances: Schedule III drugs are considered potentially dangerous substances with a medium chance for abuse and medium chance of causing psychological and/or physical dependence. Schedule III substances include ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone, and products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine.
  • Schedule IV Substances: Schedule IV drugs are considered potentially dangerous substances with a low chance for abuse and a low chance of causing psychological and/or physical dependence. Schedule IV substances include Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien, and Tramadol.
  • Schedule V Substances: Schedule V drugs are considered potentially dangerous drugs with a low potential for abuse and which contain limited quantities of narcotics. Schedule IV substances include Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, Parepectolin, and cough medicines with less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters.

Federal penalties for trafficking high quantities of drugs are divided into several levels:


Whether you received a subpoena or federal authorities knocked on your door, being under federal investigation for an alleged criminal offense can be stressful, confusing, and downright frightening. Despite the fact that you haven’t been formally charged, it is imperative to take certain measures to protect your rights and future.

The following are five steps you should take if you are under federal investigation:

  • Hire a lawyer – As soon as you learn about the federal investigation against you, do not wait until you are charged. Instead, get an attorney who is licensed to practice in federal court right away. Your lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of each stage of the investigation, protect your from legal pitfalls, and defend you in court in the event your case reaches trial.
  • Remember your rights – Although you are being investigated, your constitutional rights can still protect you. For instance, if federal authorities attempt to enter your property or your office without an arrest or search warrant, you have the right to refuse entrance and refuse to speak unless your lawyer is present.
  • Don’t lie to federal agents – Whether it’s the FBI or ATF, they generally send two agents to interview alleged suspects of federal crimes. The reason why they work in pairs is because each agent also is a witness to whatever the suspect says. If you lie to these agents, each offense is can result in a maximum five-year prison sentence. Furthermore, you do not need to be under oath in order to be charged with lying to federal authorities.
  • Only discuss the investigation with your attorney – While it may be natural to discuss the ongoing investigation with your friends, family, or associates, avoid doing so. Federal authorities can subpoena those your trust, forcing them to testify against you before a grand jury. Additionally, defense attorneys are not allowed at grand jury proceedings and cannot protect you against negative witness testimony. If you attempt to speak with a witness about what to say during the grand jury proceeding, it is considered witness tampering, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
  • Don’t destroy evidence – Destroying, tampering, or even modifying evidence against you is considered obstruction of justice, which is also punishable by a federal prison sentence of up to 20 years.

At The Crowder Law Firm, P.C., our Plano federal crimes lawyer has 18 years of legal experience handling high-profile cases. Working with us as early in the process as possible will provide our firm with an ample amount of time to develop an effective defense strategy to help you get the most favorable outcome possible.

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