Laws related to the use of controlled substances have several different names depending on the reference from which it is drawn, including drug prohibition, drug prohibition law, drug law, or drug prohibition enforcement.
Controlled substance laws prohibit the possession and transfer of narcotics and other dangerous drugs without a valid prescription and the unauthorized sale of prescription drugs. Although all fifty states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws regulating controlled substances, they vary widely per state.
Penalties for violating controlled substance laws vary by state but usually include imprisonment and fines. The severity of the penalty in any given case is determined primarily by the number of controlled substances involved and whether the offender has past convictions for similar crimes.
Prescription drugs can be categorized into five "schedules," depending on the severity of their harmfulness. The most harmful substances appear in Schedule I, while the least harmful substances are in Schedule V.
Scheduling controlled substances is the process by which the government creates the various "schedules" of controlled substances, specifically, which drugs are recognized as "drugs" under U.S. law.
It designates specific drugs and assigns them to schedules based on a series of factors, including the drug's acceptable medical use and its potential for abuse.
This can allow a jurisdiction to enact criminal statutes incorporating the schedules by reference. This avoids the need to list all substances covered by a particular law within the text of the law itself. It also provides a convenient means for updating drug laws within a jurisdiction all at once, as individual drugs can be added or removed from the schedules as necessary without needing to amend all the other drug laws. For example, in 2000, Congress added the date rape drug "GHB" to Schedule I, thereby automatically making it illegal under every federal drug law that references that Schedule.
The criminal justice system can be complex and costly, so having an experienced lawyer on your side can make all the difference.
Because circumstances of suspected controlled substance law violations often don't support a viable option, law enforcement agencies often investigate and subsequently restrain or arrest individuals suspected of committing such violations. On the other hand, the prosecuting attorney will, in many instances, have the final say in terms of which charges and penalties will need to be addressed. Once a prosecuting attorney becomes involved with a suspect, but if the alleged substance law offender is arrested or restrained by law enforcement, the first order of business will ultimately be the completion of the charging and initial bond hearing. This discretion is important because, depending upon the nature of the suspected violation, similar conduct can form the basis for various criminal charges and corresponding punishments.
Once the charges have been filed against you, you must immediately begin working closely with your attorney (if you have one) to carefully review the language of the criminal statute under which you have been charged.
The statute's wording is essential because it delineates every crime element that the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict. Review each element, and consider each separatelyas a "bundle of sticks.Although some evidence will support each element, there may not be enough evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you committed each element.
Evidence obtained that violates the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution will be excluded from evidence.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the people against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. Evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment is inadmissible in court. This is known as the Fourth Amendment Exclusionary Rule.
Evidence that is excluded for one defendant is excluded for all. The United States Supreme Court and several Federal Circuit Courts have ruled that the exclusionary rule applies to evidence unconstitutionally seized in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
This means that even if the officer improperly seized the defendant's incriminating evidence, the evidence cannot be used against the defendant in court. There is also the related doctrine of the fruit of the poisonous tree, where any evidence found resulting from the illegal search would be inadmissible at trial.
The fourth amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures by police. Such rights may be violated when a police officer makes unjustified traffic stops or uses illegal wiretapping or eavesdropping. If the evidence police obtain during these unconstitutional searches and seizures is made inadmissible in court, then the prosecutor has no case and must dismiss the charges.
Alternative Programs for Drug Offenders
Prisons in many United States state operate at nearly 200% of capacity. Because of this, there is excellent overcrowding. Data shows that, on average, drug offenders make up a significant portion of prison populations. Taxpayers spend too much money on incarcerating drug offenders, suggesting that an alternative sentencing program is better suited than incarceration.
The most common sentencing alternative is drug court. It offers a more successful experience for those who genuinely believe in making meaningful changes in their lives and permanently committing to sobriety. Usually, participants meet weekly with a group of their peers and a judge but in a more relaxed atmosphere than formal criminal proceedings.
Participants are rewarded with less frequent supervision for staying clean and can be immediately sent to jail as punishment for failed drug tests administered regularly.
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