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The Consequences of Drug Use and Possession

Date Added: July 16, 2011 03:20:41 PM
Author:
Category: Criminal Law: Drug Crime

In the United States, state and federal prisons are filled with people who have committed one crime or another. The most common offense that results in legal action, and potential incarceration, involve the possession or distribution on controlled dangerous substances. All information herein contained is for informational and educational purposes only, contact an experienced Texas Criminal Lawyer for additional information.

 

The reason for the surge in drug related incarcerations is based on two main historical points in American legislation. The Controlled Substances Act, initiated by President Richard Nixon, which created a scheduling system to determine how "harmful", in the eyes of the government, certain psychoactive substances are. Also, in the 1980's during the crack cocaine epidemic, legislation went into effect that made certain drug crimes carry with them mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. The guidelines are at the federal level, and include discrepancies such as different sentencing guidelines for powder cocaine, and crack cocaine, the latter believed to be more addictive and dangerous.

 

How dangerous a drug is presumed to be, and the legal recourse for such possession is largely determined by both the CSA, and often leading to judgement that follows mandatory sentencing guidelines. The Controlled Substance Act (CSA) Under the Nixon Administration, a new scheduling system came into play to determine how the law would classify various substances. The CSA divided drugs into 5 (V) different categories, with schedule one (I) being the most severe. Most common recreational drugs fall into Schedule I, which includes cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and PCP, among many other well known abused drugs. The scheduling allowed lawmakers to make a distinction on the severity of the drug crime based on what class the drug fell into within the federal CSA. Using this legislation, substances that are deemed to be extremely harmful to society have a distinct classification, which is the basis of the legal action taken in cases involving such drugs. Possession of cocaine, under the CSA, is deemed more unlawful than possession of sleeping pills.

 

It is quite often that the CSA status of a drug has a great influence on the outcome of cases in which persons are charged with possession of such a drug. The higher the CSA status, the more severe the judiciary penalties are for its possession Mandatory Minimums.The explosion of crack cocaine in the early 1980's is the most likely cause for the invention of Mandatory Minimum Sentencing practices. A very unique, and often disputed, feature of this legislation, is that even judges are within the reach of these guidelines. Many times, judges are forced to hand out more severe and/or longer terms to defendants in court - simply on the basis of mandatory minimum sentencing. The laws originated under the premise that certain forms or quantities of drugs are more harmful than others (i.e. crack cocaine perceived as more harmful than powder cocaine). The quantity of drugs is also a key issue when determining mandatory minimum sentences - with the thinking that the larger the amount in possession, the larger the crime. That being said, an ounce of marijuana, would not have the same penalties for possession as would 25 pounds. In the case of large drug seizures, mandatory minimum sentences provide a clear, and often strict, sentencing guideline that judges themselves have no control over.

 

Other Considerations and Consequences With the CSA and mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, the legal repercussions for drug possession are often swift and harsh. The system is set up to try and remove any potential grey-area in the courtroom, and thus, further the government's war on drugs. Aside from the legalities of drug use and possession, there are numerous ways drug use negatively impacts those afflicted by it, including, but not limited to: - The expensive price of drug use leads many users to crime. Robbery, assault, prostitution, and fraud often result from an existing drug problem. - The possibility of a criminal record is very high for drug users. This can mean a background check will show charges against the client, with only the rare exception of expungement of records to return a 'dirty' record to a 'clean' one, only as deemed by a judge and the circumstances involved.

 

Having a criminal record can prevent persons from many employment opportunities, the chance the own and operate a firearm, and even voting rights. - Personal documents such as Driver's licenses, or passports, may be subject to restrictions based on a drug conviction. Many countries that require a visa upon entrance will not grant visas to non-citizens that have a criminal record. Travel options for convicts may be severely limited. - Social stigma is a phenomenon in which, society at large, bases an opinion, usually negative, on drug users. It may be difficult to maintain relationships with family and friends, and even harder to form new, intimate relationships. Whether or not there are grounds to do so, many people lose respect and trust towards friends who have had either previous or current drug problems. The consequences of drug use or possession can be very severe. Probation is, in most cases, the softest punishment enacted, while many years of prison - up to life - can be expected for drug offenders with large amounts of dangerous substances.

 

The following information is not intended as a substitute for sound, legal advice. If you faced with an illegal drug charge, it is advisable to speak to a criminal defense attorney or public defender to discuss your options.